How Significant are Soft Skills to Line Managers in an Aviation Engineering Organisation?

Master's Thesis, 2014

115 Pages, Grade: Merit






1.1 Introduction To The Study
1.2 The Objectives To This Research
1.3 The Organisation In Study
1.4 Problem Statement

2.1 Overview
2.2 Identification of Soft Skill Attributes
2.3 Emotional Intelligence
2.4 Communication
2.4.1 Written Communication
2.4.2 Communication Meetings
2.5 Leadership Skills
2.5.1 Transformational leadership dimensions
2.5.2 Transactional leadership dimensions
2.5.3 Leadership Development
2.5.4 The dark side of leadership
2.6 Personality
2.6.1 Personality Testing
2.7 Ethics, Engineering Professionalism & Commercial Aircraft Maintenance
2.8 Summary

3.1 Overview
3.2 Definition of Research
3.3 Types of Research
3.4 Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research Approaches
3.4.1 Quantitative Research
3.4.2 Qualitative Research
3.5 Research implications
3.6 Research Objectives and Research Methodology Justification
3.7 Categories of Qualitative Interview Design
3.8 Research Strategy
3.9 Data Access and Ethics
3.10 Research Limitations

4.1 Overview
4.2 Data Analysis
4.2.1 Emotional Intelligence Evaluation
4.2.2 Communication Evaluation
4.2.3 Leadership Evaluation
4.2.4 Personality Evaluation
4.2.5 Ethics, Engineering Professionalism and Commercial Aircraft Maintenance Evaluation

5.1 Overview
5.2 Discussion
5.3 Recommendations


Appendix 1

Appendix 2


The aviation engineering industry has been evolving for over a century to keep up with technological improvements and the professional culture of the personnel working in this industry requires a continuous adaptation to changes in business requirements. Engineering in aviation has been proven to be a direct link in the aviation safety chain, however, in due to the fact that this line of work is often executed in restricted areas of airports, it is secreted from the general public, and is therefore very poorly promoted and is very rarely a research attraction for social scientists.

The access available to the author as anaircraft engineerwithin the researched organisation, grants the possibility to carry out primary research on the subject group of employees. Literature review findings concerning fivesoft skillattributes and their relation to both engineering in general, as well as aviation engineering, are investigated to discover their relation tofront line managementin this organisation, and to expose if these skills can be related to aviation safety.

Several findings emerged through this qualitative research. A deprivation ofsoft skillsawareness in a formal manner is evident as training is omitted. A promotion deficiency together with an isolation of the operations of the aviation engineer's profession is leading to an underprivileged estimation, and a degradation in the artefact cultural level. Positive outcomes are also exposed with regards to regular use of physical communication and the tendency of self-interest towardssoft skillsdevelopment in an experiential manner.

Conclusions imply that a further development ofsoft skillsamong the group in study shall have an indirect impact on the end product of this team, positively effecting safety.


Firstly I am grateful for the love of God who granted me the strength to complete my academic studies and this dissertation.

On an academic level, I would like to thank my tutor Mr. Paul Gauci, who has been providing valuable guidance and suggestions, not only through supervising this dissertation, but also during my entire academic journey in Business and Administration.

This dissertation would not have been possible without the help and support provided from my fellow engineering colleagues and the engineering management at Air Malta P.L.C..

A special appreciation goes to my colleagues for taking their time to sit for interviews and for providing the valuable and truthful information that was of great significance for the completion of this study.

I would also like to extend my thanks to my postgraduate students and friends who have been of great support during these past years.

To the highest degree, I express my largest appreciation to my parents, my siblings and their families for bearing with me with patience and support during the past three years, and for encouraging me to achieve my academic aspirations. The same goes for my best of friends who have been there since the very beginning of this academic journey.


Figure 2.1: Figure 2.1, The Triune Brain Model

Figure 2.2: Roberts Model of Personality as the Output of a System

Figure 2.3: The SHELL human factors model

Figure 2.4: The New Proposed SHELLO Human Factors Model


1.1 Introduction To The Study

The world of commercial aviation is on a steady increase in terms of aircraft usage for travelling and it does not look that the aviation industry will stop its growth over the net coming decades. Cheap commercial air travel has reached all levels of societies across the globe and made flying across countries very affordable. Needless to say, passengers travelling on board modern commercial aircraft, still expect the highest levels of safety, regardless of the air ticket cost.

Aviation engineering has proved to be a significant link in the general safety of commercial aviation, yet it has also been identified by Ataket al(2010), that aircraft maintenance is remarkably under researched, and indirectly known by social scientists. In due to their complexities, aviation engineering jobs are usually carried out in remote hangers that are within the security parameters of airports. This is mostly due to security reasons, whereby only authorized persons would be allowed on aircraft undergoing maintenance or repairs. Another reason may very well be to keep the engineering jobs carried out on aircraft hidden from the general public, as this has a tendency to affect an airline's sales revenue.

Being an activeaircraft engineer, the researcher has authorized access to research a group ofaircraft engineersin a particular aircraft maintenance organisation, and is intrigued to discover the significance ofsoft skillsto the front line aviation engineering managers within this organisation.

The literature review highlights key attributes ofsoft skillsand five (5) attributes that are mostly related to address this research objectives are selected for further exploration, and further on discussed with the participants of this research.

The fivesoft skillattributes are:-

- Emotional Intelligence
- Communication
- Leadership
- Personality
- Ethics, Professionalism and Commercial Aviation.

Literature findings exposed different perspectives towards these five attributes and their relation to engineering in general, and aviation engineering in particular.Dr. Goleman, in his literature defines emotional intelligence and explains its proper development methods.The importance of communication skills for engineering management is illustrated by Thilmany (2009), and goes further to criticise the communication styles of engineers in general and passes judgment on the excess use of e-mail communication by engineers. Steiner (2011) also criticises engineer's writing skills and depicts a lack in ability to produce effective documents. Judgeet al(2004), identifies the latest leadership styles to be transformational-transactional leadership and defines an augmentation effect of these two leadership styles as a level of supplement. Benjaminet al(2011) highlights the importance of leadership development, and George (2011) exposes a dark side of leadership, identifying though challenges and the price of failure.

In addition, personality traits are defined by Roberts (2009), and have been identified to dictate life's success by Borghanset al(2011).Goldman (2009) relates personality assessments to engineering and illustrates the need for engineering supervisors to collaborate in the use of personality testing, as it develops effective leadership.

- (2009) portrays an illustration of the engineer's profession and how it is eminently built around moral values and character, and makes reference to J.H.Schaub et al (1983) to present a definition of both a profession and a professional code of ethics. Common key elements from the published guidelines for ethics in aviation engineering, referred to by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), are illustrated. The safety culture of aviation engineering has been defined on three (3) levels by Atak et al (2010), and illustrates how a deficiency in organisational management can be related to aircraft accidents. Chang et al (2009) finally presents a newly proposed SHELLO model to highlight the importance of good organisational management and to eventually support the front-line aircraft engineers.

1.2 The Objectives To This Research

Aviation engineering is a highly technical line of work, and most certainly a high level oftechnical skills, also known ashard skills, are required for technically maintaining aircraft. However, this research study, investigates a group ofaircraft engineersand their respectiveline managers, who themselves are alsoaircraft engineers, to outline the current perception ofsoft skillsand its significance to theseline managersin this particular aviation engineering organisation. Following this investigation, it is the objective of this study to elicit possible beneficiary recommendations for further recognition of the aviation engineering profession's esteem.

1.3 The Organisation In Study

This study is carried out in a local aviation engineering organisation, which in itself is part of larger organisation or more commonly known as an airline. In fact the mother company is a national airline whereby the major shareholder in the company is the local government. The engineering organisation, can also be referred to as the engineering department. This department however, operates autonomously on a fixed budget, annually set by the airline'sboard of directors. The engineering section is headed by thechief operations officer(CFO) as theaccountable managerfor engineering.

Front-line management is shouldered by five (5)line managers, which are all professionalaircraft engineers, reporting to thehead of maintenance,who in turn reports to the CFO. Eachline managerheads a shift of four (4) aircraft engineers of different trades and a group ofaircraft technicians.

The front-line team ofaircraft engineers and techniciansoperates on a non-stop twenty four (24) hour, seven (7) days a week, shift basis. This engineering team handles day to day operations and repairs required on the airline'sAirbusA319'sandA320'sfleet, and also offers support to other airlines operating locally with the same category of aircraft, if possible and when required.

1.4 Problem Statement

Theline manageris of particular interest to this dissertation in due to the fact that this management position is earned through experience rather than through an academic journey. Being a management position, several skills are required other than technical, and the group in study has remarkable responsibilities to shoulder, as the people they lead carry out jobs which are directly related to safety.

Safety is key within aviation engineering, and this dissertation investigates ifsoft skillsare significant enough to effect, or possibly enhance, safety levels of the services carried out by the group ofaircraft engineers and techniciansled by thisline managementteam.

It is also investigated ifsoft skills,among this group ofline managers,can also have effect on the perception and esteem of the profession of theaircraft engineer,as there is a tendency that as the work carried out by this engineering team is mostly hidden from the general public, the esteem of the profession is not keeping up with other professions which, in due to their nature, are automatically promoted.


2.1 Overview

The subject ofsoft skillsis very diverse in nature, and the following literature review primarily identifies a group of relative core skills, from which a set of five (5) genericsoft skillsattributes were extracted and described in detail. This review provides a literature base of secondary research, from which valuable information is extracted to formulate interview questions for primary research.

The areas ofemotional intelligence,communication,leadership,personality, andprofessional ethics,are the five highlighted headings of this review. The details extracted under each heading provide relevance to the role of theaviation engineering manager, either in a direct manner or in a generic perspective. The literature illustration portrays, in a defining nature, prominent knowledge and facts deduced from several academic studies and practical professional literature, at times products of debate or controversy.

The relevant themes in the subject review focus on the areas of general management and management in engineering, leadership theories and practical leadership know-how, the engineering profession in general, personality traits related to the engineer, the aviation engineer as a profession, general ethics, and professional codes of engineering trades including that of the aviation engineer.

In its totality, this review exposes a considerable amount of data, enough to provide a solid base for valuable interview discussions. Albeit numerous sensitive and critical evidences are projected, the academic representation depicted in this literature review is to prove noteworthy to the personnel in study who seek higher self-awareness and an elevated professional esteem.

2.2 Identification of Soft Skill Attributes

Throughout the last decade, professional practitioners, educational researchers and political leaders alike, have persistently laid emphasis to the importance of professionals developing a set of non-academic attributes, such as the ability to effectively communicate, become cooperative in nature, and practically solve problems. These abilities are often referred to asgeneric skillsorsoft skillsin higher education. This is explained by Tomas Chamorro‐Premuzicet al(2010) in the introduction to their article “Soft skills in higher education: importance and improvement ratings as a function of individual differences and academic performance”. These skills are further defined to comprise a set of independent competencies distinct from academic, content-specific and formally assessed knowledge, and are very rarely assessed explicitly - abilities and personal attributes to be used within the broad range of working environments throughout the entire professional and personal lives of working graduates.

Despite the fact that the importance ofsoft skillshas been identified to aid students accomplish both academic and occupational achievements, Premuzicet al(2010) further explain that employer surveys reflect discontent with the extent these skills are cultivated in advanced educational programs. It is pointed out that the highly industry rated oral communication skills for example, are very rarely fostered or assessed at universities, with academics refusing to acknowledge their significance, consider them as destructions from other priorities such as research, and the students follow by characterizing learning environments, mainly in terms of formal subjects, and relatively dismissing the development ofsoft skills.

This same paper also demonstrates a widely varied catalogue of labels given tosoft skillsby various studies or interventions. This outline of attributes identifies the fundamental focal areas essential for this dissertation and a number of which shall be analysed in detail. The different attributes were noted to may include just about anything outside the knowledge content and disciplinary orientations of formal subject areas, however fifteen (15) of which are identified to be:-“self-management, communicational, interpersonal, team-working skills, the ability to work under pressure, imagination/creativity, critical thinking, willingness to learn, attention to detail, taking responsibility, planning and organizing skills, insight, maturity, professionalism and emotional intelligence.”

This arrangement of dissimilar skill aspects are also categorised as eitherinterpersonal and management skillsormanagement of self, others and tasks.This study has established that it can be considered conceptually appropriate to group this wide inventory of attributes under one common label, namely -soft skills.

In assessing the validity ofsoft skillsit is eminent that such attributes to an individual’s abilities are difficult to measure objectively, and on occasion, as in testing for interpersonal and management skills, can only be subjectively assessed. It is also noted that there is very little change during the years spent in higher education to the attributes that constitute tosoft skills, even as these attributes refer to dispositional traits in the character of the individual. Despite these conceptual and methodological limitations identified by Premuzicet al(2010), by controlling for personality correlates of academic success, the relationship betweensoft skillsand academic performance is found to hold significant.

A positive but modest association is indicated between the extent to whichsoft skillsare considered significant by higher education students and their future goal achievement - like outstanding academic achievement and/or getting a desired job following graduation. However, it is concluded thatsoft skillsplay a clear role in engagement. This finding is pertinent to both educational and occupational interests. The roles of a higher education are arguably to promote enthusiasm and motivation to learn, and a high engagement with academic subject matters, in addition to a higher self-efficacy, is very likely to eventually impact future occupational choices.

Ordinarily, it is further explained that a general belief among the subject students, is that they are aware of such skills, and moreover consider the need in developing these skills in order to augment their occupational prospects. However, a gap is identified between skills which are academically fostered for, and ones desired occupationally, and although special courses are actually aimed to cultivate specific soft skills, meta-analytic evidence advocates that these courses are not sufficiently effective. Results highlight important implications in occupational psychology in equipping future graduates in technical or scientific professions with relevant non-academic skills. Moreover, as students’ cultural learning is affected by the way they are assessed, and considering what employers in the present day expect from graduate students, the goal for academic assessment methods should be to congregate what students require to gain knowledge for university, but also to stimulate undergraduates to develop work-relevant skills.

In due to the fact that courses in specificsoft skillsreturn poor practical outcomes, a better alternative was suggested to be to acquire these abilities in the course of the study of formal disciplines and academic knowledge, in alignment with the common belief that the development ofsoft skillsis embedded within the prospectus of a specific discipline.

Pat Crawfordet al(2011) in “Comparative Analysis of Soft Skills:What is important for new graduates?” identifies, from a comprehensive analysis of over eighty (80) current literature articles on employability skills, seven valuable clusters of soft skills. Each cluster is further divided in its positive descriptive characteristics.

“1:-Communication Skills 2:-
* Listen Effectively * Identify and analyze problems
* Communicate accurately and concisely * Take effective and appropriate action
* Effective oral communication * Realize the effect of decisions
* Communicate pleasantly and professionally * Creative and innovative solutions
* Effective written communication * Transfer knowledge from one situation
* Ask good questions to another
* Communicate appropriately and Professionally using social media* Engage in life-long learning

3:- Self-Management Skills 4:- Teamwork Skills
* Efficient and effective work habits * Productive as a team member
* Self-starting * Positive and encouraging attitude
* Well developed ethnic, integrity and * Punctual and meets deadlines
sense of loyalty * Maintains accountability to the team
* Sense of urgency to address and complete * Work with multiple approaches
tasks * Aware and sensitive to diversity
* Work well under pressure * Share ideas to multiple audiences
* Adapt and apply appropriate technology
* Dedication to continued personal development

2 Decision Making / Problem Solving Skills
* Identify and analyze problems
* Take effective and appropriate action
* Realize the effect of decisions
* Creative and innovative solutions
* Transfer knowledge from one situation to another
* Engage in life-long learning
* Think abstractly about problems

4:- Teamwork Skills
* Productive as a team member
* Positive and encouraging attitude
* Punctual and meets deadlines
* Maintains accountability to the team
* Work with multiple approaches
* Aware and sensitive to diversity
* Share ideas to multiple audiences

5:- Professionalism Skills
* Effective relationships with customers, businesses and the public
* Accept and apply critique and direction in the workplace
* Trustworthy with sensitive information * Cross disciplinary experiences
* Understand role and realistic career * Community engagement experiences expectations * International experiences
* Deal effectively with ambiguity
* Maintain appropriate decor and demeanour
* Select appropriate mentor and acceptance of advice

6:- Experiences
* Related work on internship experiences
* Teamwork experiences
* Leadership experiences
* Project management experiences
* Cross disciplinary experiences
* Community engagement experiences
* International experiences

7:- Leadership Skills
* See the “big picture” and think strategically
* Recognize when to lead and when to follow
* Respect and acknowledge contributions from others
* Recognize and deal constructively with conflict
* Build professional relationships
* Motivate and lead others
* Recognise change is needed and lead the change effort


(Presented in rank order from employers survey responses)”

Pat Crawfordet al(2011), p.9.

In reference to these seven soft skill clusters, Sir Mike Rake (2009) in his foreword to the report“The Employability Challenge”by the UK Commission for Employment and Skillsquotes:

“These employability skills [soft skills] are the lubricant of our increasingly complex and interconnected workplace. They are not a substitute for specific knowledge and technical skills: but they make the difference between being good at a subject and being good at doing a job.”

Rake (2009), p.3.

2.3 Emotional Intelligence

Dr. Daniel Goleman (1995) in his book “Emotional Intelligence” illustrates that human beings, in a very real sense, have two semi-independent minds; arational mindthat thinks and anemotional mindthat feels, and for the most part the two minds operate in tight harmony, however when they are in contrast, the emotional mind captures the upper hand and swaps the rational mind, rendering rational thinking ineffective.

Dr. Goleman (1995) goes on to elaborate that to better grasp the potent hold of the emotional and thinking minds, one should consider how the human brain evolved, and explains that the most primitive part of the human brain is thebrainstemfound at the top of the spinal cord, from which emerged theemotional centres, and after millions of years in evolution, from the emotional centres emerged the thinking brain orneocortex.

With the addition of theneocortex, the geometric size of the brain increased, and so did interconnections in brain circuitry, giving the brain a greater range of reactive possibilities towards emotions, a much needed tool in our complex social world. However it is still noted that in crucial moments, mostly in emotional emergencies, the thinking brain is deferred to thebrainstem– the primitive limbic system of the brain.

Our emotions have a mind of their own, one which can hold views quite independently of our rational mind.”

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 2.1, The Triune Brain Model

This explains much about the relationship of thought to emotions; the emotional brain existed long before the rational one, and in due to this, the emotional brain is intertwined via countless numbers of connecting circuits to all parts of the thinking brain, therefore having an immense power to influence the centres of thought, and when emotions run out of control, the erratic tide of outburst and regret renders even the smartest of people to do the very dumbest of things.

It is not the intention of this dissertation to study the anatomies of the brain but it is interesting to note that as Dr. Goleman illustrates, the human brain can be hijacked by its emotional sentinel (guard). Emotions have the power to disrupt thinking itself, overwhelm rationality, and a“precognitive emotion, a reaction based on neural bits and pieces of sensory information that have not been fully sorted out and integrated into a recognizable object”(Goleman, p.24), can be sometimes, if not often, out-of-date and faulty guides, especially in the complex social world of modern humans.

This has led Dr. Goleman to the recognition that life’s success is dependent upon not only IQ, but alsoemotional intelligence, or as in this day and age often referred to - EQ, and that our rational mind functions at its best when it interacts in balance with the emotional mind, and therefore it is crucial to learn what it means to use emotions intelligently. It is further acknowledged that many paths lead to success in life and in our constantly increasing knowledge-based society, technical skill, much related to IQ, is certainly a requirement.

Although most curricula, especially in technical professions, are focused on acquiring technical, orhard skills,and succeeding in academic programmes depends much on having a high IQ, starring in academic intelligence offers no absolute guarantee of esteem, prosperity or happiness in life unlessemotional intelligenceis also developed. This different domain of intelligence (EQ) requires its own set of competences and like IQ can have varied levels of skill, and also affects other skills, including raw intellect (IQ).

“Much evidence testifies that people who are emotionally adept – who know and manage their own feelings well, and who read and deal effectively with other people’s feelings – are at an advantage in any domain of life, whether romance and intimate relationships or picking up the unspoken rules that govern success in organisational politics. People with well-developed emotional skills are also more likely to be content and effective in their lives, mastering the habits of mind that foster their own productivity; people who cannot marshal some control over their emotional life fight inner battles that sabotage their ability for focused work and clear thought.”

Goleman (1995), p.36.

It is further explained that what makes us human is our emotions and relative modern psychology is coming to appreciate the powers of both the virtues and the dangers of our multiple intelligent mind, and a model of a human mind without the emotional mind is impoverished.

Emotional intelligence is illustrated as five main domains:-

- Self-awareness– in knowing one’s own emotions as they happen is a keystone to emotional intelligence. Lack of this skill leaves individuals at the mercy of their feelings.

- Emotion managementbuilds up on self-awareness - it is the ability to soothe oneself, to shake off gloom, irritability or rampant anxiety and quickly recover from life’s upsets or setbacks.

- Self-motivation- an ability to delay gratification and marshal emotions in a way to serve a goal.

- Empathy– the skill to recognize emotions in others is a fundamentalpeople skillorsoft skill.People who are empathic are attuned to delicate social signals and are better at callings such as sales, teaching and management.

- Handling relationships– also known as social competence; interpersonal abilities to do well with others that lead to popularity and leadership.

The article“What Makes a Leader”written again by Dr. Goleman and featured inBest of Harvard Business Review(2004), addresses the debate on whetheremotional intelligenceis a hereditary or learnable skill. It is explained that scientific inquiries strongly advocates that a genetic component does play a role inemotional intelligence, however, psychological research also indicates that emotional skills can be nurtured, and it is ascertained that this kind of intelligence augments with age.

An adverse concern is shown towards the methods of training emotional and leadership skills in general.

“Unfortunately, far too many training programs that intend to build leadership skills – including emotional intelligence – are a waste of time and money. The problem is simple: They focus on the wrong part of the brain.”

Goleman (2004), p.4.

It is advised thatemotional intelligencewill not be enhanced with no genuine desire and prolonged effort, brief seminars are mostly ineffective and so are how-to manuals; Learning to internalize empathy so well that it becomes a natural response is much harder than to become habituated to failure routines, but it is doable. Goleman (2004) illustrates that wrongly targeted training programs can also negatively impact performance. Aged behavioural habits must be discerned and replaced by new ones, and this task calls for an individualized approach and is more time consuming than conventional training.

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm, wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. If your goal is to become a leader, these words can serve as a guidepost in your efforts to develop high emotional intelligence.”

Goleman (2004), p.4.

2.4 Communication

Jean Thilmany (2009), in the article “nixing engineerese: Communicating across departments calls for soft skills”, gives an insight about the need for communication skills within departments and illustrates the need of stereotypical engineers to develop good working relationships. It is identified that typical engineers usually have less – than – stellar communication skills and are, for the most of them, linear thinkers; communicating with such personnel may prove to be challenging. It is pointed that for engineers who aspire to enrol in future management positions, learning the skill of aligning their approach to the status level and personality of different employees is a must.

“For an engineering manager, one of the biggest jobs is to establish good working relationships with employees across the company.”

Thilmany (2009), p.30.

Thilmany (2009) refers to the advice offered by Roberta Chinsky Matuson, president of HR Solutions, a human resources consultancy in Northampton, Massachusetts, whereby she notes that one soft skill that is easily trained and honed over time is in fact the ability to clearly communicate. She counsels that for engineers to communicate effectively with different professionals they need to constantly remember that most likely, the other persons do not have their equivalent technical background.

An interesting notion pointed out by Dr. Jim Anderson, a business communication expert and president of Blue Elephant Consulting and also quoted in Thilmany (2009), is the custom for engineers to point out deficiencies to other people or departments, and that this characteristic is rooted in the engineer’s nature and is, more often than not, unappreciated, if not appalled, by others.

“Engineers, by the very nature of their background and training, are good at finding and pointing out problems, but this can be really annoying to others. If we take the time to not only point out problems, but also offer suggestions as to how they can be fixed, then that will go a long way to improving how we are viewed by other departments.”

Thilmany (2009), p.31.

Kenneth J. Levineet al(2011), in"The Changing Communication Patterns of Engineers", points out that both the organizational and national cultures can influence communication patterns.

“National and ethnic culture is a strong predictor of communication patterns, however the organization’s culture is also a strong indicator of the channel (face – to – face versus electronic) and content (task versus relational) of the communication in the workplace”

Levineet al(2011), p.1157.

Levineet al(2011) also points out that the wired / landline telephones were no longer the preferred communication channel among engineers, but still an important tool within the workplace, and so is the use of voicemail. It is noted however, that engineers find e-mail both easy to use and helpful, but further still this method of communication has become popular with engineers in due that e-mails become historical records of a communication episode, with follow-up e-mails becoming the new day electronic minutes, as for example, an email initially sent to distribute electronic slide presentations for review prior to a meeting in person. By eliminating the need to take formal notes at every gathering while providing easily searched historical data to a number of participants simultaneously, this modern type of documentation retaining is very practical and efficient.

“The use of electronic communication is even more important in the workplace than expected. E-mail and messaging have become the primary means by which information is documented and transmitted.”

Levineet al(2011), p.1156.

In contrast, Dr. Anderson is quoted in Thilmany (2009) to caution about the use of e-mail communication, and explains that although at times e-mail can be very practical, it should not substitute a phone call or a personal meeting wherever possible, as these forms of communication can often make interactions go more smoothly.

“E-mail isn’t the right answer for every message; engineers need to remember that not everyone lives and dies by e-mail. They also have phones, written messages, and actual human contact that they can use to interact with other departments.”

Thilmany (2009), p.31.

In a research paper published by theInternational Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature, namely:“Perspectives on Oral Communication Skills for Engineers in Engineering Profession of Pakistan”, Inayatullah Kakapetoet al(2012) highlight the importance of acquiring non-technical skills, even prior to entering the professional world.

“Communication, oral communication, soft skills, generic skills and employability skills are interchangeable words in literature review that indicate that modern engineering graduates should be proficient in these skills if they want to be successful at workplace in order to perform workplace jobs successfully.”

Kakapetoet al(2012), p.177.

The study points out that engineers rely heavily on communication skills and that it is a common perspective that having a workplace equipped with engineers that are effective oral communicators adds-on productivity of businesses, as the modern engineer is quite often required to perform oral presentations, actively discuss and participate in meetings, negotiate with customers regarding product or services issues and also inform management about progress or barriers of work projects.

“Engineers identified that engineers equipped with effective oral communication skill dominate whole meetings. Conversely, engineers equipped with poor oral communication skills remain silent during meetings. In addition, they further identified that due to poor oral communication skills engineers fail to present expert opinion during meetings.”

Kakapetoet al(2012), p.181.

Running a business productively and profitably is most likely to be the major objective of employers explains Kakapetoet al(2012), and communication and oral communication skills are being considered as significant and distinctive proficiencies for engineering graduates; in a globalised business milieu, concise communication is fundamental for success.

“Employers look for those engineering graduates who can communicate well with multiple stakeholders on the job. Thus communication skills have become important for engineering graduates to obtain a job in local as well as global organizations.”

Kakapetoet al(2012), p.177.

It is concluded in Kakapetoet al(2012), that engineering is a profession that demands both technical and non-technical skills and that oral communication skills are, in our day, the new predictors for employers to enhance workplace productivity, and in the light of this perspective, since communication is one essential element in modern organisations - as it involves interaction with multiple stakeholders including workers, customers, managers, employers and executives - to set up finer future engineers, both engineering academia and industry should focus on arranging communication skills training for engineers in the workplace and for engineering students.

2.4.1 Written Communication

Many professionals are called upon to exercise writing skills in their professions, engineers included, but some do so with dread and apprehension. Engineering is a unique study for communication researchers, as most specialized in the field, choseengineeringbecause of its perceptible lack of writing required. Derek G. Steiner (2011) explains this in "The communication habits of engineers: A study of how compositional style and time affect the production of oral and written communication of engineers". Even though many go into engineering due to the technical aspects of the profession, engineers are actually required to regularly write documents regarding their technical knowledge, and communicate them to various audiences, to demonstrate their expertise, and Steiner (2011) is concerned with howengineersapproach communication in writing, by extensively observing engineers responsible for writing technical documentation. It is evidently illustrated in Steiner (2011) thatengineers, in general, leave much room for development when it comes to writing skills.

“Research into the writing abilities of engineers, however, shows that many lack the necessary skills and training to produce effective and persuasive documents in an efficient manner.”

Steiner (2011), p. 34.

According to Steiner (2011), literature shows that researchers discovered that people with an apprehension towards writing have a tendency to gravitate towards careers without regular writing requirements. It is further explained that engineers tend to require their writing abilities more as they move up the career ladder to management levels, and despite low apprehension, engineers may still be ineffective in producing high quality effective documents, especially when pressured by tight deadlines.

"Engineers must pull together information from other departments and disciplines (who each have their own jargon) and compile it appropriately. They must often work with teams who are spread across the country and they must work in an environment where the technical engineering work is prioritized over the writing tasks, even if the writing is intended to generate additional work."

Steiner (2011), p. 36.

It is moreover highlighted in Steiner (2011) that most engineers specifically look for, and require, quiet environments when there is a need for writing as they can only focus clearly on the task if they are not worried about being interrupted.

2.4.2 Communication Meetings

Nale Lehmann-Willenbrocket al(2013) in their article "A Sequential Analysis of Procedural Meeting Communication: How Teams Facilitate Their Meetings", disclose that in this day and age, research is increasingly focusing on communication meetings as a significant organizational phenomenon. Through an extensive review of literature, Willenbrocket al(2013) reveal that the manner in which social groups synchronize their occupational roles to accomplish tasks, referred to asgroup coordination, is fundamental to group effectiveness. Willenbrocket al(2013) goes on to explain that however unfortunate, often groups tacitly assume that synchronization can still transpire even without coordination planning, and additionally it is noted that regardless of their strong positive impact,proactive meeting behavioursare rare.

Proper communication facilitation, may indeed be the key constituent to boost group performance; by making use of what is referred to as acritical reminder, who is a person instructed to intervene when participants require help in reaching effectual decisions, a group meeting may be coordinated to decelerate, remain observant, re-evaluate issues and deal with problems. Willenbrocket al(2013) illustrate this, and go further to explaining that in team meetings havingcritical reminderspresent, ultimately turn out with higher quality decisions than group meetings where such guidance is unavailable.

“the intervention by a reminder has the potential to help a group institute procedures known to produce choices having desired consequences.”

Willenbrocket al(2013), p. 368.

Willenbrocket al(2013) conclude thatprocedural communicationpaves the way forproactive behaviourin communication meetings, even as the level of conduct in procedural communication has been directly linked to an increase in overall meeting satisfaction and moreover higher organizational effectiveness, as guided dialogue instigatesproactive behaviour.

“Proactive behaviours include signalling interest in change, taking responsibility, and planning concrete steps to be carried out after the meeting. Put simply, successful team meetings are distinguished by these proactive meeting behaviours, not simply nice chats. When teams talk about who does what when, they are more likely to implement their ideas.”

Willenbrock et al (2013)

2.5 Leadership Skills

In the book“Leadership – Theory and Practice”,Peter Guy Northouse (2012) explains that leadership, although intuitively understood, same as love, peace and democracy, may have different connotations for different people; and for more than a century attempting to define it, practitioners and scholars alike have not yet reached a consensus.

“There are many ways to finish the sentence, “Leadership is. . . .” In fact, as Stogdill (1974, p. 7) pointed out in a review of leadership research, there are almost as many different definitions of leadership as there are people who have tried to define it.”

Northouse (2012), p.2.

In“Designing Transformational Leadership Development Programmes”,Enric Bernal (2009) illustrates that although there is not one single method for classifying leadership literature, the more recent leadership constructs follow different categorization, such as transformational vs. transactional theories, or charismatic and authentic, theories of leadership. Also this is identified by Timothy A. Judgeet al(2004) in“Transformational and Transactional Leadership:A Meta-Analytic Test of Their Relative Validity”, stating:-

“In the past 20 years, a substantial body of research has accumulated on transformational-transactional leadership theory.”

Judgeet al(2004), p.755.

It is further explained that in the most recent version of transformational-transactional leadership theory, there are three dimensions fortransactional leadershipand four dimensions fortransformational leadership.

It is also of interest to note that in their conclusion to their paper “Follower Behaviour and Organizational Performance:The Impact of Transformational Leaders”, Boerneret al(2007) propose an approach to ask followers three (3) questions prior to employing any type of leadership style, in order to identify and align the relevant leadership behaviour required for the desired leadership objective, namely;

“Which organizational goal should the subordinate contribute to?

Which follower behaviour is required to reach this particular goal?

Which leadership behaviour is suitable to trigger the identified follower behaviour?”

Boerneret al(2007), p.22.

2.5.1 Transformational leadership dimensions

Judgeet al(2004) categorizes and explains transformational leadership into four (4) dimensions;

- Charisma or idealized influence,
- Intellectual stimulation,
- Inspirational motivation and,
- Individualized consideration.

Leaders are said to havecharismawhen their idealized behaviour influences, in such an admirable way, that it causes followers to identify themselves with the leader. By taking stands whenever required and displaying convictioncharismaticleaders are appealing to followers on an emotional level.

On another dimension, a leader usesinspirational motivationto challenge high standards from followers and provide an associative meaning to a group by communicating an articulated and appealing vision of optimism towards a futuristic attainable objective.

One more dimensional element of transformational leadership refers tointellectual stimulation,as in the extent to which a leader disputes assumptions before taking risks, but eventually solicits a follower’s idea.

The fourth dimension identified by Judgeet al(2004),individualized consideration,is related to the degree a leader will attend to the needs of each and every individual follower, more like as a personal coach or mentor rather than a leader, but nonetheless stimulates by constructively listening to the follower’s desires and apprehensions.

2.5.2 Transactional leadership dimensions

The three (3) dimensions identified and described in Judgeet al(2004) comprise;

- Contingent reward,
- Management by exception – active,
- Management by exception – passive.

When a leader exercises thecontingent rewardleadership dimension, he or she sets up constructive exchanges or transactions with the followers and clearly spells out follower expectations as well as the rewards to be granted in meeting these expectations.

With regards to management by exception Judgeet al(2004) elucidate that the difference between theactiveand thepassivedimension lies in the timing of the leadership intervention. Whileactiveleaders anticipate possible problematic outcomes, by observing specific follower behaviours, in order to predict and implement corrective actions prior to severe complications are created by the follower’s behavioural problems,passiveleaders, on contraire, suspends action until actual problems are indeed created by the follower.

On a general perspective themanagement by exception - active and passivedimensions refer to the degree to which a leader will take corrective measures on the basis of leader - follower transactional outcomes, functioning as an extension to thecontingent rewarddimension.


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How Significant are Soft Skills to Line Managers in an Aviation Engineering Organisation?
University of Malta  (Faculty of Economics, Management and Accountancy)
Executive Masters in Business and Administration
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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Aircraft Safety, Engineer, aircraft engineer, aviation safety, soft skills, soft skill, engineer soft skills, emotional intelligence, management, engineering management, aviation engineering, safety, Leadership, image, professional
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Mark Galea (Author), 2014, How Significant are Soft Skills to Line Managers in an Aviation Engineering Organisation?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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