The construction industry, pivotal to global growth and infrastructure, is no stranger to innovation. Advances in materials and techniques have propelled the sector into a new era of efficiency, safety, and sustainability. However, while materials and method of construction continue to evolve, the same cannot always be said for the leadership within the industry. Research conducted by SBF (Scottish Building Federation) over recent years is still indicating a concerning disparity: the rapid progression of construction methodology and techniques stands in stark contrast to the comparatively impeded growth of leadership capabilities within the sector.

The Root of the Issue
Within the construction industry, deep-seated habits and practices have persisted, contributing to a less than favourable external image and internal attitudes. These practices can hinder productivity and limit the sector’s ability to embrace new opportunities. This inherent disconnect between cutting-edge technologies and leadership capabilities threatens the industry’s potential for sustainable growth in the future.

Evidence shows that construction leaders are often chosen based on experience and tenure rather than their capacity to drive change and adapt to the evolving landscape. The result is that many construction companies are led by individuals who often excel in traditional construction methods but sometimes lack the agility required to navigate a fast-changing industry. The consequence of this disparity is often seen in projects that do not reach their full objectives and a lack of innovation that has the possibility of suppressing the sector from its true potential.

Addressing the Issue
To bridge the gap between technical progress and leadership capabilities in the construction sector, several key areas need to be prioritised:
1. Education and Training: The construction industry must revamp leadership education and training programs to emphasise adaptability, innovation, and a deeper understanding of sustainable practices.
2. Mentorship and Knowledge Transfer: Encourage mentorship and knowledge transfer programs that facilitate the exchange of experiences and insights between seasoned industry veterans and emerging leaders. This could include the cross fertilisation of knowledge and practices from other industry sectors to ensure wider and more innovative opportunities.
3. Cultural Shift: Promote a cultural shift within the industry that embraces innovation and sustainability. This shift should encourage inclusive decision-making processes, inviting diverse perspectives at all organisational levels.
4. Embracing Technology: Leaders should stay current with technological advancements, particularly in the realm of digital construction technologies, to enhance project management, improve efficiency, and reduce waste.
5. Sustainability as a Core Value: Emphasise sustainability as a fundamental core value for construction leadership. Leaders must integrate environmentally friendly practices and sustainable building techniques into their organisations, aligning them with global commitments to a greener and more productive future.

Next Steps – How can you start to develop within?
Developing leaders out of construction managers is essential for the growth and success and future sustainability. SBF frequently observes numerous companies neglecting to establish effective succession plans, sometimes resulting in a precarious situation for the business when confronted with retirement or employees seeking new opportunities. The absence of forward-thinking preparation may prove to be a costly oversight, potentially leading the company to unforeseen financial burdens or, in the worst-case scenario, the prospect of closure.

We witness construction managers often having the technical expertise required for the job, but to become effective leaders, they need to develop a broader skill set. Here are some steps to help develop our leaders for the future:
1. Identify Potential Leaders: Not every construction manager is suited to be a leader. Identifying individuals with the right attitude, aptitude, and potential for leadership is the first step. Look for those who demonstrate strong communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and a desire to take on more responsibility.
2. Provide Leadership Training: Invest in leadership training programs. These programs should cover topics like communication, conflict resolution, decision-making, and team management. Consider sending construction managers to external leadership workshops and courses. Speak to SBF who would be more than happy to assess your current situation and advise on the next steps.
3. Mentorship Programs: Establish a mentorship program where experienced leaders within the company guide and support construction managers. This provides a platform for knowledge transfer and skill development. If your Company does not have this capability, speak with SBF who would be happy to support you.
4. Encourage Continuous Learning: Promote a culture of continuous learning. Encourage all employees to stay up-to-date with industry trends, technological advancements, and management best practices. This can be done through workshops, webinars, conferences, and industry publications.
5. Assign Challenging Projects: Provide opportunities for construction managers to lead complex and challenging projects. Leadership skills are often honed in high-pressure situations. Allow them to take on responsibilities that go beyond their comfort zones.
6. Feedback and Evaluation: Regularly assess the performance and progress of all employees and construction managers in their leadership roles. Provide constructive feedback and create development plans to address areas that need improvement.
7. Soft Skills Development: Focus on developing soft skills such as emotional intelligence, empathy, and conflict resolution. Effective leadership requires not only technical knowledge but also the ability to work well with people.
8. Lead by Example: Encourage construction managers to lead by example. When they exhibit the qualities and behaviours expected of leaders, their teams are more likely to follow suit.
9. Communication Skills: Strong communication is a cornerstone of effective leadership. Provide training in public speaking, active listening, and articulating a clear vision for projects and the company’s future.
10. Encourage Problem-Solving: Encourage construction managers to take ownership of problems and find solutions. This promotes a proactive and leadership mindset.
11. Promote Team Building: Building and leading teams is a crucial aspect of construction management. Encourage construction managers to focus on team-building activities and strategies.
12. Leadership Opportunities: Offer construction managers opportunities to lead cross-functional teams or collaborate on company-wide initiatives. This exposes them to different aspects of the business and helps broaden their leadership skills. Keep everyone involved!
13. Recognition and Incentives: Recognise and reward effective leadership. Incentives can be financial or non-financial, such as promotions, increased responsibility, or public acknowledgment.
14. Set Clear Expectations: Clearly define the expectations for construction managers in their leadership roles. Ensure they understand their responsibilities and are held accountable for their actions.
15. Lead with Values: Instil a strong set of company values and ethics. Effective leaders should not only be technically proficient but also adhere to a strong code of ethics and values that guide their decision-making.
Developing leaders out of construction managers is an ongoing process that requires commitment from both the individuals and the Company. By providing the right support, training, and opportunities, many employees can transition into effective and inspiring leaders within our industry.

In the rapidly evolving construction industry, the need for adaptable, innovative, and forward-thinking leadership is more critical than ever. While materials and techniques will continue to advance at pace, the industry’s leadership must evolve alongside them to harness the full potential of these innovations.

To thrive in a rapidly evolving construction sector, we must also recognise the need to recruit and attract a diverse array of talented individuals to make this industry their career of choice.

By embracing these changes, the construction sector can position itself for sustained growth and improvement in both external perception and internal culture. To transform the construction industry into an attractive and dynamic sector of choice for prospective employees, it’s crucial that we prioritise innovation, sustainability, and inclusivity, ensuring that future generations are inspired to join and lead the way into a more promising future.

Developing leaders out of construction managers is an ongoing process that requires commitment from both the individuals and the Company. By providing the right support, training, and opportunities, many employees can transition into effective and inspiring leaders within our industry.