For any company to be successful, good leadership is essential. This is true across many different industries and the main issue for construction businesses is achieving this at all the various leadership levels across their organisation.

Among other things, we need great leaders in the office to provide direction on the business strategy, principles and procedures; we need great leaders on board at the very beginning of every project to engage with clients and oversee safety, costs and budgeting; and we need great leaders on the ground at each site to manage schedules, monitor progress and motivate the team.

With so much riding on it, we’re taking a moment this week to reflect on what good leadership in construction actually looks like.

Firstly, let’s recognise that there are several different leadership styles which people adopt, often varying according to the nature of the person and the project they’re working on. Two of the most common leadership styles found in construction are ‘Drivers’ and ‘Analysers’.

Drivers are people who are decisive, competitive and fully focussed on achieving their goals while Analysers are more likely to study the detail, leading with a focus on precision and organisation. Other styles include ‘Relaters’, those who are known as good listeners and easy to get along with (but perhaps less able to deal with anything confrontational) and ‘Influencers’, people who are creative, open to ideas and especially like to focus on the big picture.

While there are pros and cons for each of these difference leadership styles, in reality most leaders will use a range of styles throughout their work and will need several key attributes to be good at their job.

To be a good leader, the first piece of advice is always be authentic. This is how you achieve the trust of your team so change up your style if needed but make sure it’s done in a way that makes people believe in you. After this, regardless of which style you adopt, there are three key things that every leader must do.

1. Set and communicate direction

At its most basic level, setting and giving out direction means making decisions, then getting the message about those decisions out to the correct people in the company at the right time.

To do this, you have to first think about what is the right or most profitable direction the company needs to take? This might be a directive around health and safety, procurement, time-management or any other aspect of the work that you do.

Next, make sure that your plan of action has no holes – e.g. missing information or details that could be misinterpreted by the team.

The final step is to get the message out to those who need to know about it. Not everyone needs to know everything about the company, so tailor your communications so that the message is always relevant to those who receive it and issued at an appropriate time for it to be useful.

2. Motivate people

Motivation is one of the most important factors in construction leadership. If you’re unable to motivate the team you lead, be in no doubt that this will have an impact on the company’s turnover and profitability. 

Money is, of course, one way to motivate people but good leaders know that this single reward is not nearly enough to keep people motivated and engaged with the company over the long-term.

So, what do people want at work?

  • To have some element of control over what they’re doing every day. The leader’s job is to set targets but there’s no need to prescribe how every aspect of the job is achieved. Giving workers a bit more autonomy to find their own best way of hitting those targets can lead to significant improvements in productivity.
  • To improve and have opportunities to show that they’re getting better at their job. The feeling of doing something better is a great motivator so create an environment where people can improve their skills and learn something new. Set tasks that are meaningful and pitched at the right level to give your team a realistic challenge.
  • To have a purpose and know that what they are doing matters. When talking to your team about the tasks required of them, remember to tell them ‘why’. And, not only why it’s important that the task is completed at the project level, but also why it matters to the company that the tasks are done well (e.g. boosting the company’s reputation).

3. Encourage teamwork

The outcome of any construction project depends not only on the person in charge but also heavily on the cooperation of all team members involved. The best leaders, therefore, encourage good teamwork, achieving this by:

  • Helping the team to have a shared vision with a clear understanding of the team goals.
  • Ensuring the team are resourced as appropriate to the job (e.g. enough people with the right skills/ knowledge) and that tasks are delegated and shared as evenly as possible but taking capabilities into account.
  • Practicing effective communication techniques.
  • Continually evaluating progression and providing good feedback.
  • Ensuring the team can access training to address any skills or knowledge gaps.
  • Using problem-solving skills to help the team to work in a coordinated manner.
  • Taking early control of any issues that may arise, using negotiation techniques to resolve them.

Being confident in your abilities as a leader is something that often comes about after some years of practice, However, there is always room for improvement and by remembering these three key points (Setting and communicating direction, motivating people and encouraging teamwork), every leader in construction has the potential to become better at their role.


Feature image: Freepik