CE Roundtable: What COVID-19 Has Taught About Leadership

The ASCE News Civil Engineering Roundtable showcases insights from a cross-section of ASCE members on a variety of industry topics.

Today’s roundtable draws from a recent ASCE Thursdays@3 webinar conversation, discussing the different ways the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the importance of civil engineering leadership skills.

Question: Why are leadership skills more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic?


Andrea DuMont


Water resources engineer, Jacobs; industry blogger

“When we talk about COVID, it’s not just this health crisis which obviously it is. But we’re also seeing the effects of this economic recession and what’s happening in response to the recession and all the civil unrest and protesting. So for me, I think being a leader during this time is being able to understand that people have very different experiences, and that they’re experiencing this pandemic very differently, and trying to work towards inclusivity with all our people.”


Marc Hoit


Vice-chancellor for information technology, North Carolina State University

“Everyone has their view of what [leadership] means; crisis is where it’s really tested. Crisis is where your preparation and your planning and your education and your experiences all come together, and you get that opportunity to see if you can handle that crisis.”


Elyssa Dixon


Owner, fleeceandforests LLC; member of ASCE’s Committee on Younger Members

“I view leaders as people who connect people, who motivate people, and that’s something that’s harder to do when you’re not physically in the same space as somebody.”

Headshot of Brent Darnell

Brent Darnell

Owner, Brent Darnell International

“Human-to-human connection drives everything we do.”


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  1. Leadership in times of change disrupting the status quo, such as in the COVID national crisis, has two facets. One regards the manner in which corporate leaders and managers guide and permit workforce adaptation within the workplace to accept the new reality and continue the necessary work of the enterprise. Within the engineering profession we have discovered almost universally that our teams are resilient and capable to continue the essential work of our profession and industry during the crisis. As leaders we are mindful that this effect is based upon a foundation of systems, teaming, and working relationships which existed prior to the advent of the crisis. As we go forward, our leadership challenge at the corporate level will be how to sustain the development of our professionals and teams via mentoring and OJT, as well those working relationships which arise from personal engagements in the workplace.
    The second facet regards the role of engineers as leaders in our society. We saw during the crisis that there was a level of comfort expressed by the public to see the engineering and construction industries continuing to work and addressing the facilities needs in the crisis. Engineer leaders as a profession can consider that they have the ability to provide a real and necessary benefit to the Nation for public leadership during a crisis. The leadership demonstration of engineers and related professions continuing to deliver essential facilities and services is essential to the public in a time of crisis, and is an important facet of our national strength and resilience which engineer leaders serve.


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