Business leadership is a complex subject, even though most of those who offer advice about it try to simplify things. It is one of those subjects that can be described with straightforward universal truth, but also relies on a myriad of details, many of which drive people who prefer the concrete and the predictable.
The construction and engineering industries are professions that are full of exactness. Materials do this, wires do that, this many bolts of such and such a size will hold up this much weight, and so forth. While that kind of data isn’t quite as plentiful in leadership, there are principles there to guide construction managers, engineers, environmental specialists and other professionals working within the construction, engineering and environmental industries.
More than anything else, people who follow a leader want honesty. The reasons are fairly clear, given the relative absence of this virtue in modern business. A straight answer goes a long way towards building confidence. One thing you will always hear from people who admire a certain leader is that “you always know where you stand with him/her.”
Be that leader and you will inspire the kind of confidence that will make your job a lot easier. This is especially true in a role where many of the people you lead are experts in their fields. It is far easier to engineer a building than it is to engineer a consensus. However, if your leadership is built on honesty, that difficulty doesn’t have to be insurmountable.
General Patton was famous for his quote (paraphrasing) “an imperfect plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed tomorrow.” Action in the face of indecision is the mark of all great leaders, whatever the consequences of their decisions. Making mistakes is something common to all people. Presuming you are immune to error just because you’re in charge now is not realistic and will lead to one of two undesirable outcomes.
First, you’ll be more likely to make a wrong decision because you think you can do no wrong. Two, you’ll be less likely to make a decision at all, which leads to a bottleneck problem. Taking action while accepting the possibility of failure is absolutely crucial. Without this, nothing gets accomplished.
Construction and engineering are two disciplines that professionals can find themselves stuck between planning and building. Making sure the organization has forward momentum is just as important as the plans and the work.
By their nature, leaders have an unlimited capacity to encourage, promote and help build a powerful team. Kings have always understood, for example, the utility of promoting someone with a new rank and new responsibilities. Giving someone the authority to lead, it can be argued, is the ultimate test of a true leader.
Delegating responsibility also happens to be one of the things that will make it possible for you to lead. Many executives make the mistake of trying to do everything themselves. This leads to the dreaded “three star general gassing up jeeps” situation that prevents the leader from doing what only they can do. Any corporal can gas up a jeep. Only a three-star general can draft a large-scale battle plan. Delegation is what keeps the generals and the corporals doing the right jobs.
Engineers and environmental professionals will find delegation a vital tool, especially if they are in a position to lead even a small-scale project. The ability to call on the help of many qualified people is crucial in a technical environment.
Leadership doesn’t have to be difficult. As long as it is approached with the right level of sober reflection and understanding, it can be one of the most rewarding roles in business and lead to long term organizational success.
Michael DeSafey is a leading executive recruiter for professionals in the construction, engineering and environmental industries. He is currently the President of Webuild Staffing www.webuildstaffing.com . To learn more about Michael or to follow his Blog please visit www.michaeldesafey.com