Elevating leadership from within

Mar 17, 2024

It is essential to develop high-performing staff and provide them with opportunities to elevate themselves into leadership positions within our firms.

It is an exciting time to be a part of the architecture, engineering, and construction industry. Infrastructure needs across the country continue to grow, and the demand to recruit and retain top talent for your organization to deliver those infrastructure projects is likely top of mind.

Recruiting leaders after they have established themselves within another organization is challenging. But perhaps even that pales in comparison when considering the challenge of retaining existing talent within your organization in the current job market. For these reasons it is essential for us as an industry to explore the development of high-performing staff and provide them with opportunities to elevate themselves into leadership positions within our own firms.

You can elevate leadership from within your firm by implementing these approaches:

  • Encourage finding passions and taking ownership. One approach for developing new and emerging leaders within your firm is to identify individuals’ unique strengths and to motivate staff to take ownership of those strengths and skill sets. Encourage team members to discover what they are most passionate about and become experts in their disciplines. This empowers team members to take control of their individual career paths and perform at higher levels due to their affinity for the subject matter. Consider assigning areas of responsibility that staff can “own” and be accountable for to support their personal growth and development, as well as the growth of the organization. Encourage new ideas and support initiatives that bring positive change to the organization and facilitate collaboration across varied professional experience levels. Connecting a strong network of high-performing, diverse, and passionate team members will yield new approaches to delivering AEC services and will start young professionals on the road to leadership.
  • Accessible mentorship and leadership exposure. Allowing young professionals to connect with a variety of leaders is critical for workforce and leadership development. It is essential to expose staff to different leaders with varying leadership styles. This creates an environment where team members can learn from those who came before them – evaluating both positive and negative outcomes of leadership decisions and applying it to their own roles. Exposure to many leaders across the firm will accelerate the leadership path for up-and-coming professionals and will reinforce that staff can succeed by leading in their own way throughout their career. Emerging leaders do not need to be a carbon copy of the leaders before them, and instead should take best practices from each leader they encounter.
  • Provide diverse leadership. Leadership structures within an organization should reflect the strengths of each individual leader. For example, a highly skilled technical leader may excel at driving the direction of design but may not be well-suited for leading business development efforts or managing staff. Conversely, good leaders of people may not always be technical experts. However, technical leaders and leaders of people are both essential to the success of an AEC organization. Organizations should strive to find opportunities for both leaders to work together to best support the organization. This will create a well-rounded, more diverse and balanced organization led by individuals who are focused on their passions. By prioritizing the elevation of leaders based on unique skill sets and strengths that compliment other leaders within the organization, a likely by-product of that effort becomes a more diverse leadership team. This diversity allows our staff to consider how they might fit into a future leadership role and to envision themselves with leadership duties.

By implementing these approaches, we can create future leaders from within our own organizations. These leaders will have followed their individual passions, taken ownership of their areas of expertise, and developed their own personal leadership style with mentorship from a team of leaders who have come before them. This creates an extremely strong and sustainable organization, well-positioned for the growth necessary to deliver projects that will satisfy our infrastructure needs today and into the future. 

Monica Heil is vice president of municipal services at WSB. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.