STEM is Key to the Future of Executive Leadership

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) has been a hot topic the last few years, and with good reason. Technology has altered the workplace and redefined the skills required for leaders in the future. When looking at long term succession planning, STEM is key to the future of executive leadership.

Beyond the four core disciplines, STEM teaches skills including creative thinking, problem solving, collaboration, analytical decision making, interpersonal communication, digital acumen, lateral thinking, leadership initiative, and critical analysis. These soft skills are imperative in today’s evolving technology landscape. The ability to handle both the technical and managerial aspects of a role will help tomorrow’s leaders improve company productivity, deliver innovative new ideas, and contribute to society.

As traditional roles are eliminated by technology, STEM will become even more important as a prerequisite to fill the types of roles that will be created. The exact jobs that we’ll see in ten years is hard to predict, but the nature of the work to be done will be supported by STEM skills. Enabled by technology, tomorrow’s executives will be solving difficult problems, delivering innovation, and applying new thinking to challenges that we’ve not yet experienced.

A recent article in Fortune notes, “STEM encourages critical thinking and problem solving, which is critical to business success.  As we look to the future, leaders need to be at ease with digitization, and must continuously examine which new technology platforms can become important business drivers. Success in STEM subjects often requires curiosity and a constant thirst to experiment, which will be key as businesses seek to pioneer solutions that meet evolving customer needs, and get ahead of market transitions.”

On the HBX blog, Harvard Business School’s online learning initiative, former student Kyle Rosenmeyer writes about the need to develop business skills in support of his education, “I loved working as an engineer, but in order to prepare myself for future jobs, I needed business acumen. Senior engineers and division and department heads all use more business skills in day-to-day work than engineering skills. My STEM education gave me a way to solve problems and think logically, but I needed to understand accounting tools, financial reports, and markets to compete.”

He goes on to say, “Business is important to any STEM career. The blend of skills between business and STEM educations are formidable in today’s marketplace. Companies need to think differently to solve today’s problems and this requires increased versatility and innovation at the employee level to move the organization to the next level. Even if you don’t want to be CEO or CFO, you will need a business skill set. You must work with money, budgets, and financial teams to be effective and impactful. However, regardless of your career, most paths ahead of you involve business. The higher you work up the org chart, the more business skills you’ll need to lead people and teams, and effectively run organizations.”

According to Chief Executive, here are six ways to start developing the leaders of tomorrow though STEM initiatives.

  • Partner with state governments – As an economic-development priority that is increasingly vital to their futures, more and more states are backing programs to boost their STEM credentials, and they need manufacturers to help them out.
  • Back science festivals – Often city based, companies can contribute financially as well as with their brain power to develop passion for new innovative thinking.  
  • Reach out to the under-represented – To generate true diversity of thinking, create programs that encourage women and minorities to pursue STEM careers.
  • Tap into Silicon Valley – If you’re not based in the Valley, reach out to contacts that are and learn from the initiatives and programs being developed there.
  • Sponsor robotics and other STEM programs – Nearly 200 of the Fortune 500 companies back FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics competitions at the high-school level. Such programs are a “great stepping stone” for STEM-interested students.
  • Fund higher-education efforts – With the rising cost of secondary education, one excellent way to create interest for continued STEM studies is to create scholarships that support students who may not be able to afford it on their own.

If you’d like more information on how you can support STEM initiatives to enable future executive leadership, send us a note.