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What Every Construction Manager Should Know To Be a Strong Leader

Being an effective construction manager requires more than strong managerial skills. You also need to possess and develop strong leadership skills to inspire others to perform at the highest level to support the work to be done.

Effective construction leaders are able to identify the needs of a situation, identify the needs of the individuals performing the work, identify the needs of the organization, and then compel individuals to act in a way that benefits everyone involved in a particular project.

Leading projects is bigger than managing projects, which is why understanding the difference between leadership and management is one of the important things a construction manager should know.

Differences Between Managing and Leading in Construction

Management is based on the requirements of a particular role within the organizational structure. For example, a manager is given instructions for a particular project and the manager attempts to carry out their orders through the authority given to them based on their role and the role of others in the organization.

Leadership, on the other hand, is not dependent on position authority that is awarded by the organization. Instead, leadership is based upon voluntary followership. An individual earns their leadership by making contributions that others deem beneficial to their well-being.

As you can see, following a leader is an inspired choice, not a mandated choice. To lead others to perform actions in support of the project and your organization, it’s important to understand some of the characteristics of a construction leader.

Characteristics of Managers vs. Leaders in Construction

Managers are given the authority to plan, budget, organize, and control in the following ways:

  • Create policies and procedures.
  • Give orders.
  • Focus on short-term results.
  • Get involved in the process of accomplishing defined objectives.
  • Focus internally and work within existing structures.

This paints the picture of a transaction. Managing without leadership is based on giving instructions and expecting results without necessarily investing in the individuals that are responsible for performing the work or aligning with the overall mission of the organization.

By comparison, a construction leader focuses on how to enable others to perform and grow, while also getting the desired results in a way that supports the organizational mission. Among other things, leaders do the following:

  • Challenge, change, and shake up the system.
  • Focus on long-term results and anticipate the effects of change.
  • Define objectives based on their belief in a purpose for the organization.
  • Focus externally and move beyond organizational boundaries.
  • Ensure that direct reports perform their work in a safe and ethical manner.

How a Construction Manager Can Be a More Effective Leader

Leadership extends beyond what people do with formal authority in organizations. Since leaders must have willing followers, managers that aspire to be effective leaders need to pay special attention to how they accomplish their managerial tasks. The “how” determines whether or not their direct reports become willing followers.

Consider how you can become a more effective construction leader by understanding what others are looking for from a leader:

Leadership is responsive. Leaders respond to something or someone. They also respond to the needs and wants of their followers. For example, they respond to problems — instead of shying away from problems — and challenges prompt them to take action.

Leadership is dynamic. It is active, enlightening, inspiring, and moving. Both leaders and

followers move when leadership occurs.

Leadership expresses courage and confidence. The leader accepts a leadership role by behaving like a leader. Followers accept a leader by choosing him or her to lead.

Leadership has many faces, times, and places. There are a variety of roles that leaders

play, depending on the leadership needs of the situation. Leadership must find an

opportunity, win acceptance by others, and accomplish a common good.

Leadership can happen at any time in any place. It is not appointed by position. In construction management, leadership is best carried out in the following ways:

  • You are committed to goals.
  • You have a well-defined vision.
  • You demonstrate an ability to solve problems.
  • You can bring people together and motivate them to act.
  • You ensure that results are accomplished through other people.
  • You have the ability to see the big picture.
  • You are aligned with the organizational mission.
  • You rally others to support the organizational mission.
  • You have characteristics of honesty and integrity.
  • You have optimism in the face of many challenges.

Take Inventory of Where You Need to Grow as a Leader

The key point for construction managers is that leadership is a dynamic relationship. It’s not a transaction attempting to get the work done as quickly and efficiently as possible without regard for your people, your organization, or the big picture.

To advance in your career as an effective construction leader, you need to continually respond to the changing nature of the work, your people, the situation, the project, and the organization within a dynamic environment. 

Take inventory of where you are strong as a construction leader. Also, consider where you have some gaps that need to be addressed. Then, you can work toward becoming a more effective leader who is capable of compelling others to act.

By developing the appropriate leadership skills, you can make important contributions to the organization — and inspire others to make similar contributions.

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