Leadership: Yes You Can

July 15, 2000 · by James P. Cramer

Poignantly, leadership happens only when there is motivation. The motivation to be a leader is a choice—a state of mind. Change or fail—a leader’s job is to not only anticipate the future but to create it. It is not someone else’s responsibility—it

At a recent industry convention, I sat in on a presentation that painted a mostly negative view of what lies ahead. This presentation included some valid points—but was lacking in scenarios for change and was void of vision on how leaders can look around corners to see a new future.

I agree that the A/E/C industry has been suffering residually from its history. It’s a tainted history in certain ways, one of labor problems, inefficiency, and gritty, backward processes. Today, at the dawn of a new century, there are still firm principals and those in positions of responsibility who all too often have few positive expectations of better times ahead. Their view is of a lackluster and marginal future — notwithstanding their current financial success, which they view as unsustainable. If this sounds familiar—it’s time to look at a far more informed understanding of the future.

We see a good many firms that have become incubators for innovation and re-invention. These firms have leaders. And these leaders see a construction industry that will take on a much more positive reputation resembling in certain respects the aviation industry and the technology sector. The construction industry will be a service industry—where innovation is rewarded.

Inspired leaders in design and construction have a vision of the future where new efficiencies are invented; buildings are of better quality and better designed, and are constructed 35-45 percent faster. These leaders see the Internet as a friend, and the future economy as having fundamental strengths that will allow for entrepreneurial growth opportunities.

Why be allergic to change? Leaders know that change is inevitable and they welcome the new opportunities that are inherent in it. There are legitimate and considerable concerns about where the leaders will come from to step in and take charge. Take for instance the firm principal who said to me recently, “Jim, where are the leaders? We have several branches in our firm with a need for real leadership and frankly we don’t have anyone in-house who can fill the positions. Where are they?”

What is needed today and where do we find it? We look for the following:

1. A leader has a vision: Beyond day-to-day operations, the construction industry needs people who can think strategically about the future and who have a vision.

2. A leader is a strong day-to-day coach: This means that there is informed optimism with a communication style that is encouraging. Always finding new and better ways to recognize achievement, these leaders actually know how to get people charged up for challenges that will get average organizations down.

3. A leader can bring in the bottom line consistently. Even in a poor economy leaders find ways to learn and be resilient. These are people with attitudes and skill sets who use discipline and experience to achieve bottom line performance.

4. A leader is enthusiastic about both design and construction. It is key to be a builder not of separate fragments in the industry but of the integrated potential. They create a zone of fresh information and genuine enthusiasm for better building.

5. A leader is informed. Not content with last year’s style and solutions, these people are always learning and finding new ways to achieve success. Leaders understand that knowledge is a competitive weapon.

6. A leader is consistent and mature emotionally. These people know how to build respect and they do not overreact to the problems that are predictability reoccurring. These leaders are constantly finding ways to turn average people into performers through listening, encouraging, and advising. But not preaching.

7. A leader keeps it all in perspective with a sense of humor. The stresses on our leaders are immense and never ending. But leaders find ways to balance situations and to bring humor along with action.

Now, back to the question: “where are these people?” “They” are you.

Leadership can be learned. Poignantly, leadership happens only when there is motivation. The motivation to be a leader is a choice—a state of mind. Change or fail—a leader’s job is to not only anticipate the future but to create it. It is not someone else’s responsibility—it is yours.

—James P. Cramer

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