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The 4 Best and Worst Leadership Traits on a Construction Site
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Tim Forestell
February 16, 2023

The 4 Best and Worst Leadership Traits on a Construction Site

Research done by Zippia found that 79% of employees who haven't received appreciation from their supervisors will quit their jobs. This alarmingly high rate shows how necessary active leadership is in an organization.

The same standard applies to leadership in construction. Construction site leaders and other management positions directly impact the crew's trajectory. This article will cover the four best and worst traits of construction leadership and management.

Best Leadership Qualities

#1: Understanding Expectations

From supply chain shortages to mental health crises, the construction industry has faced many challenges in recent years. With so many variables to juggle, leaders must be able to understand expectations and situational circumstances.

Expectations refer to what leaders expect of their employees and the work itself. This involves setting reasonable deadlines, hiring additional staff to support workers if possible, not assigning blame for weather and supply chain-related complications, building relationships, and setting up contingency plans.

With all the obstacles people are facing, feeling misunderstood by management, especially those who lack on-site experience, is a common sentiment amongst construction workers. As a leader, you don't need to have all the answers. However, you do need to support your staff and try to solve issues to the best of your abilities.

#2. Humility

If you have the skills to be a leader, you don't need to win people over with arrogance. Humble leaders are respected as people since they know when to delegate and admit they're wrong. They focus on how to solve problems going forward, as opposed to deflecting blame onto others.

Good leaders are also humble enough to know that they care far more than the average person since their personal stake in the company is greater. This acknowledgment alone implies humility. Just listen to Daniel Yates talk about the importance of both pride and humility in construction on the latest episode of the Building Builders Podcast.

Humble leaders won't shy away from nurturing their employees' growth, as they actively want their staff to succeed on an individual and team level. Good character, trustworthiness, and honesty are among the most common adjectives describing good leaders. These go hand in hand with humility.

#3. Be Quick to Praise

There's a difference between influence and control. Leaders possess the former, while managers possess the latter. Instead of relying on threatening reprisal, leaders influence peoples' actions by encouraging voluntary participation and internal motivation.

A study comparing leadership and management in the construction industry found that the best leadership approach among contractors was "information-based solutions where decision-making, management, and external control are minimized."

Contractors who adopted this performance-centric approach were described as "highly motivated, "win-win" thinkers, efficient, results-oriented, and utilized top performing team members." These findings show that leaders who use influence when leading their crews perform better than those who rely on control.

Praising your team members is another way to cultivate influence. Praising quality work and character shows that you value peoples' contributions and are invested in their personal growth. Making people feel good about what they do goes a long way. On the flip side, providing corrections when necessary further proves your attention to quality work and your ability to lead.

#4. Communication

Leaders must transparently communicate what is required of their employees along with their targets and accompanying deadlines. Communication establishes the standards you want your crew to adhere to, creating a benchmark for performance. Once these standards are set, you also need to follow them yourself. Modeling is communication that speaks louder than training and documentation.

Worst Leadership Qualities

Lacking the above-mentioned traits won't make you an effective leader. However, expressing the following traits and behaviors will undermine your leadership capabilities.

#1. Indecision

Having too much of a laissez-faire attitude can lead to missing deadlines, running drastically over budget, and poor safety enforcement on-site. Indecision is at the root of the laissez-faire leadership style. People look to leaders to make decisions, and often don't respect leaders who seem incapable of doing so.

Indecision is frustratingly inefficient and doesn't establish structure. This isn't to say that you should be auditing every call people make. It means making a decision when that decision falls under your jurisdiction.

As a leader, decisiveness allows you to hold people accountable for their behavior. Conduct that threatens people's safety and infringes on the flow of work needs to be addressed. Failing to follow through undermines the standards of conduct you're trying to establish and your credibility.

#2. Inability to Delegate

Part of being decisive is choosing when to delegate. No matter how many aspects of the company you oversee, a single person can't do everything effectively. Good leaders trust their team member's ability to perform. They don't need to tell people what to do all the time, as they advise when necessary and provide the training required for people to work on their own.

Leaders see delegation as a learning opportunity. They learn from team members who complete a task better than they can whilst removing that task from their own plate.

Linda Tennant, a business owner and leadership speaker featured at CONEXPO, suggests taking this first step when delegating: leaders must "successfully identify a task one of their employees could either do better, for less time or money, or simply for his or her personal development."

#3. Micromanaging

Rigid bureaucratic leadership is the flip side of laissez-faire. Overly authoritative leaders tend to micromanage, causing employee burnout and poor morale. In most cases, your crew's behavior doesn't require such heavy regulation.

If lack of knowledge among workers is the issue, then training can address knowledge gaps. This approach allows the worker to improve, as opposed to micromanaging their every move without addressing the root cause of the problem. Generally, you should trust people to do their jobs efficiently unless they've given you a reason not to.

#4. Inability to Listen

When leaders struggle to remember the information their teams have previously shared, they likely aren't actively listening to them. Effective construction management involves listening to your team's issues, relevant information, and experiences on-site. Listening can also indicate when you should step back and select an alternative solution proposed by a team member.

Active Leadership

Active engagement with your crew is the common thread between each desirable skill for construction management. Listening, delegating, communicating, and praising are all actions that require constant engagement. Choosing to develop these qualities and embracing improvements is the first active step you'll take toward effective leadership.

In the latest episode of the Building Builders podcast, the main theme was how humanizing your workers and speaking with them can help build a better culture. Listen to the full episode now.

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Tim Forestell
Tim Forestell is one of DOZR’s co-founders and CCO. Tim got started in the industry as VP Operations for Forestell Landscaping before founding DOZR with Kevin and Erin. Aside from the amazing team at DOZR, his favourite thing about DOZR are the customers. Working with DOZR renters every day gives him a peek at the evolution of different projects and hearing stories about projects being developed from start to finish.
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