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Design Insights: Leading Through Uncertainty; Leadership in a Millennial Age

May 7, 2021
A review of the day’s top trending stories from Machine Design editors.

Leading Through Uncertainty

If there is a single shared experience from the past 18 months, it has been the feeling of abrupt and disruptive change in our lives. As industry leaders, we have been responsible not just for our own feelings, but in maintaining and enabling our teams to continue to perform, and even innovate, through these challenging days.

Ellen Kullman is someone who doesn’t shy away from leading through uncertainty. The Delaware native became CEO of chemical giant DuPont at the end of the 2008 financial downturn, then took the reins as CEO of Carbon, a 3D printing tech venture, in November 2019 just as the pandemic unfolded.

Whether managing 400 people or 40,000, “the basics are the same,” said Kullman. “The first thing any leader has to do is to make sure that they have a team that is not only capable, but excited and energized about doing the work that’s ahead.” In this video podcast with Machine Design Senior Editor Rehana Begg, Kullman provides insights into Carbon’s response to the pandemic by using Carbon’s Design Engine technology to figure out ways to tackle some of the bigger issues of medical supply shortages, including a novel design for a Resolution Medical Swab.

Leadership in a Millennial Age

The issues surrounding leadership aren’t as simple as they once were. Top-down works for some things, but with a workforce that has changed in terms of personality, goals and skill sets, the same rules don’t always apply.

In the area of artificial intelligence (AI), the Millennial worker may be your greatest asset—if you provide the right kind of leadership. David R. Martinez is co-instructor of the MIT Professional Education Course Engineering Leadership in the Age of AI, and wrote in a Machine Design article, “Millennials and members of Gen Z aren’t content to sit on the sidelines. If they feel as though they have more skills or knowledge than the people above them, they’re going to demand more responsibility—and they’ll often leave if they don’t get it. But perhaps even more importantly, these younger workers are often correct in their understanding that they bring a high level of skill and talent with them.”

With concerns over finding, training and above all retaining workers in a challenging but expanding economy, understanding what workers can do is the first skill set for leadership—and drives greater success in the process.

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