Not for the faint of heart

Jan 08, 2023

Becoming a great leader is a rewarding experience, but it takes time, training, and a lot of trial and error.

It takes a lot of trial and error, along with knowledge and training, to be a good leader. Some people are naturally gifted, but even so, there’s always room for improvement. Almost everyone can learn how to be a good leader, but they also must want to be a good leader. Opportunities and training must be provided in order for them to succeed. 

I have seen companies that have been run by the same group of leaders for 20 or 30 years. They haven’t given those under them (middle management) many opportunities to be a leader within the firm. Then one day, the leadership group realizes they want to retire in two to three years, and there isn’t anyone in the firm prepared to lead the organization. The leadership team has to scramble to figure out what to do. Most of the time, a leader can’t be created in a couple of years. It takes five to seven years to develop a great leader! 

Becoming a leader doesn’t happen overnight. (Don’t we all wish it would?) Employees must continually attend conferences, workshops, and seminars to learn about leadership – and then put everything they’ve learned into practice. There are many different types of leadership training available within various associations (industry, community, civic), as well as from consultants and trainers. You can’t expect someone to become a great leader after just a single class or conference. One must be consistent with leadership training. In some cases, it’s recommended to hire an executive coach to help prepare these employees for leadership roles, especially if you see opportunity for them to be a partner or future owner of the firm – but executive coaching is a whole other topic. Leadership has many different facets and is pretty complex. It doesn’t come easy for most people; it takes a lot of time and dedication to grow those who you are supervising. And leadership is about more than just managing people. It’s inspiring others to be motivated, and as the leader you are there to support them in their endeavors. It’s having difficult conversations with employees. 

On the flip side though, leadership can be fun! You get to watch people grow and develop when you’ve helped them succeed in their career. That’s rewarding. As a leader, you want to develop people better than you, so you can have the best team. It’s about bringing in all talent, so you have a well-rounded team. It’s about building a relationship and trust with those team members. It’s about being their support system, both professionally and personally. 

Every leader has a different set of strengths as well, so making sure the leadership team is comprised of a diverse group of people helps the firm grow and be more agile. Determine early what your exit strategy is and start developing your future right now. It’s never too early to start investing in your employees when it comes to leadership.   

Lindsay Young, CPSM is a marketing services advisor with Zweig Group and president and founder of nu marketing. She can be reached at

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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.