4 Habits of Effective Leaders

Practice these four habits of effective leaders to be a better leader on construction crews.

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Incredibly, I find many contractors totally inept when it comes to leadership. Talk about equipment — “Great.” Discuss direct costs — “Got it.” Perform job layout — “In my sleep, pal.” But ask them to lead today’s worker and they move to the back of the class.

Look, you can lead. Certainly there are many challenges for today’s concrete contractor, but we must move positively ahead as it relates to leading our workers.

Let me briefly share four key habits that will lead to more effective leadership.

#1 Establish Your Own Clear Leadership Vision

Coaching construction leaders over the past 20 years has displayed many examples of how “not to do” this leadership thing. In every situation where I observed great leadership being effectively demonstrated, there was always a contractor or field leader who had a clear viewpoint of his (or her) leadership presence.

More importantly, their vision was also observed, received and embraced by those following. If you want to take your next step in leadership then you would be wise to begin by clearly establishing your vision and then living it daily.

#2 Get Rid of “Me”

One of the realities of leadership is discovering that just as you have made it to the leadership ranks, you must now realize that it is not about "me" anymore. Boy, this discovery is quite sobering for anyone who has worked hard to become a senior leader.

The best leaders in construction recognize that with acquiring the leadership role, whether through promotion or purchase, you must quickly and consistently lead via taking your personal pride, wants and benefits out of the picture and refocus greatly upon those who will reward your leadership with performance success. Therefore, getting rid of "me” must be replaced with giving more to others in your time, availability, support, expectations, boundaries and wisdom.

#3 Set the Expectations and Objectives

For the “thoroughbred” employee all you need to do is to share your expectations about how you want to see work performed and the clear and measurable objectives for a project or task. For the "challenged” workers you will need to emphasize your expectations for their performance and behavior and for your company’s reputation for quality, safety and organization. Likewise, you will need to develop measurable goals that can be monitored and integrated into daily and weekly conversations and meetings to help keep the entire workforce focused and on the right path.

#4 Practice the A.C.T.S. of Leadership

This simply acronym stands for Accountability, Consistency, Teachability and Strategic. Briefly, being an effective leader begins with you being accountable to doing your job each day. Consistency recognizes that you must practice good leadership, show respect to others and be thorough in decision making over and over and over again … thus consistency.

To be “teachable” is to always be in a mode to learn. When your followers see you learning, and enjoying new lessons, then you may inspire your followers to also want to grow and learn. Finally, leaders must be more strategic in their decision-making, scheduling and planning. Most laborers in construction are short term in their view and tactical in their approach. Whatever is the easiest to do is what many workers will choose; leaders must be strategic and capable of making the best, even though it may be the toughest decision to make.

There are countless other leadership techniques that exist, however, without establishing the leadership efforts presented here in your daily walk you will be leading as if walking on thin ice. Deepen your foundation and core as a leader by possessing a clear vision for your leadership, taking yourself out and refocusing on your followers’ needs, project clear expectations and objectives, and practice the A.C.T.S. of a leader.

Yes, you can lead — now lead!

*This article was originally published in 2013 and republished in 2019.