The “L” word, revisited

Oct 01, 2018

I have said it before. I am worn out from all the talk about leadership versus management, Level 5 leadership, servant-leader leadership, and the rest of it. The “L” word – leadership – sure is one that is talked about a lot by people in the AEC business.

Not that leadership isn’t crucial to running a successful enterprise. Anyone who is an owner of a firm could easily build a case that there isn’t enough of it to go around – although I would argue that there aren’t enough “doers” to go around, also!

We have to train and coach both our current and future leaders. They need to understand some fundamental principles, including but not limited to:

  • You have to be a great communicator. So many times things go wrong because the leader did not share the information needed to clearly communicate what he or she wanted to get done. That is terrible. It results in wasted time and money and once again destroys morale – all of the things an effective leader should have as his or her primary concerns.
  • Your example is the single most important thing you can do as a leader – all eyes are upon you. “Do as I do not as I say” is the reality of the situation. Do you make the business development calls you want others to make? Do you turn in your timesheet on time as you ask others to do? Do you watch your expenses when on the road as you expect the rest of your people to do? Do you make the collection calls you demand from everyone else? Be honest with yourself here.
  • You have to build up the people who work for you. Sometimes this is hard. Maybe they DIDN’T do the best job they could. Maybe they were a little slow. There could be any number of reasons to be unhappy with someone but the effective leader realizes you have to balance all criticism with praise or the resulting morale damage could kill the goose that lays golden eggs.
  • You have to be honest. That applies to everything all of the time. A lack of honesty will be apparent to those who work for you and will destroy any trust they have in you. As a leader, you cannot afford to lose all trust. Lose that and no one will do what you want them to do the way you want them to do it.
  • You cannot ask anyone to do anything you won’t do yourself. An effective leader isn’t going to be too proud to do the dirty work, or any work for that matter, that has to be done in order to get the job out.
  • You cannot let your emotions get the best of you. Remaining calm in the midst of battle or conflict or other stressful situations is something that an effective leader HAS to do. If the leader panics, everyone else will most certainly freak out, too. And that’s never a good thing!
  • You have to be accessible. Most good leaders keep their doors open most of the time and don’t have their admins guard their doors too carefully. A good leader realizes that cutting themselves off from the people they are leading is never a good thing.

I could go on but I’m out of space. Are you doing what you should be doing to train your next generation of leaders?

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

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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.