Seven Leadership Tips to Help Contractors Succeed

Dr. Larry Kokkelenberg, president at the Center for Business Development, says there are three leadership skills you can learn today and four keys to becoming a transformational leader.

Larry Kokkelenberg

Dr. Larry Kokkelenberg, President at the Center for Business Development, is returning to the World of Asphalt (virtual) stage at the first ever “People, Plants and Paving Digital Conference” taking place from March 9-11, 2021. This year, Dr. Kokkelenberg will offer two sessions, entitled “10 Commandments of Supervision” and “Top 10 Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail.” People looking to improve their business practices can register here.

Dr. Kokkelenberg previously presented at World of Asphalt on two different topics, and these leadership tips for success still apply today.

Three Leadership Skills You Can Learn Today

Dr. Kokkelenberg told a class at the 2015 World of Asphalt Show & Conference, that the “great man theory” of leadership has been disproven. Instead, he said, “Leadership is a learned skill, not a natural talent.” Here are the three leadership skills Dr. Kokkelenberg said you can learn today:

  1. Leadership is a social experience. “The old adage ‘you lead people but you manage things’ is very true. Leadership is a social experience and by that I mean that leadership is about building positive interpersonal relationships. Ask yourself what kind of a relationship you have with each person that reports to you. What would your staff say that you need to improve?”
  2. It matters how you produce results. “You must realize that leadership is not just about producing results; it matters how you produced those results. Yes, you are responsible to ‘get the job done and on time and within budget,’ but there are many ways you can do that.”
  3. ‘Telling’ approach alienates workers. “Third, the autocratic or ‘telling’ approach will alienate the younger workforce, and you are likely to have greater turnover and less productive employees. Build a crew or team that works well together and is at least somewhat self-directed, and you will have productive employees that will follow you.”

Four Keys to Becoming a Transformational Leader

Also, in 2015, Dr. Kokkelenberg said there are now five different generations within the workplace (Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z). Dr. Kokkelenberg told World of Asphalt attendees the mix of generations, and the disruption being caused by the increased use of digital technologies, means leaders need to become more transformational in their approach to leadership. The four things Dr. Kokkelenberg said are key to succeeding are:

  1. Idealized Influence. Leaders must exemplify high levels of ethical conduct in order to engender high levels of trust. A leader that cannot be trusted won’t be a leader for long.
  2. Inspirational Motivation. This is similar to “positive reinforcement” theories of parenting. Motivate your team by praising more than you criticize and build their confidence by thanking them for a job well done.
  3. Intellectual Stimulator. Encourage team members at all levels to approach their work with a problem-solving mindset and encourage them to think for themselves. People aren’t machines with simple input-output routines. People enjoy being challenged and stimulated and will be more productive in a place that encourages it.
  4. Individual Consideration. Recognize each person on your team as an individual with unique wants and needs. 

“Our industry understands the critical relationship between hiring and retaining a talented workforce and success,” said NAPA President & CEO Audrey Copeland, P.E., Ph.D. “As a major pillar in NAPA’s strategic plan, I am excited to have an entire education track dedicated to helping our members find and keep talent.” 

“I’m looking forward to these sessions with Dr. Kokkelenberg myself,” said World of Asphalt Show Manager Brittany Weltcheff. “Learning new, well-researched leadership strategies is helpful whether they’re in charge of a paving team on a roadway project or are in charge of the entire company.”

Many of the People, Plants, and Paving Digital Conference sessions qualify for Professional Development Hours.

Register and stay updated on the latest conference information at