Thirteen things leaders can do to be better leaders

Aug 21, 2017

We can always improve. Take these steps and your life as a leader will get much better.

  1. Confronting those who are not doing their jobs. This is one of the primary roles of a leader. Allowing failures to persist without confronting them is an absolute failure on the part of the leader.
  2. Stop accepting every excuse for a lack of results as valid. While SOME excuses people have for not performing may be justified, many are not. Certainly, ALL are not. AEC firm leaders tend to accept every excuse in the name of protecting their “family” work atmospheres. It hurts the company and demotivates everyone else.
  3. Valuing your time. You have to set the example for valuing your time. It means you don’t get sucked into trivia. It means you avoid wasting your time doing things other people can do. You do not accept every single interruption as normal, especially if it keeps you from doing something more important. It also means that if one of your employees insists on texting you with non-urgent stuff during dinner every single night you can ask them to wait.
  4. Taking care of yourself. Eat right, sleep, exercise – don’t let yourself go. You set a good example for everyone else when you can show self-discipline and care for yourself. And you also show you don’t let circumstances dictate what happens to you.
  5. Not letting the negative stuff destroy your optimism. This is so important yet we all must remind ourselves to stay vigilant here every day. There is so much negativity – so many negative people you can associate with – and all of it will suck you down. It doesn’t mean you have to live in a bubble, but it does mean you can “turn it off” when you have to. You know it’s hurting you and your ability to lead a bunch of other people who are probably exposed on a daily basis to more negative stuff than you are.
  6. Not being afraid to try something that hasn’t already been done a million times. We are so conforming in this business – you wouldn’t believe the lack of confidence we see daily in firm leaders who are afraid to do something different than their competitors. It is a huge problem that holds companies back. But think about it – if you do everything just like every other company out there why would you ever be more successful than they are?
  7. Being able to tolerate criticism or skepticism and yet keep moving forward. Always the hallmark of a good leader. Not everyone will like you, trust you, or believe in you. And there will always be people taking shots at you. Thicken up that skin. Be ready for this to happen. Expect it. Embrace it. Then prove the critics wrong.
  8. Making a plan, sharing a plan, and implementing a plan. You will never get out of the woods without a map or at least a good sense of where the “exit” is. This has to be explained and shared with everyone else in your party because if not they will all be worried, fearful, and paranoid.
  9. Valuing doers vs. those who just talk about it. As a guy who has started multiple businesses and worked with firm founders of all types and sizes, I can tell you that doers are infinitely more valuable than idea people who never do anything. There are a million ideas. Those who implement one or more of them are the heroes. They get something done.
  10. Keeping your cool under fire. Losing your temper is never good. You have to remain calm and in control of your emotions no matter what. That said, I have been able to use what appears to be emotion effectively at times as a communication tool. Be smart about what you “show” people!
  11. Being self-critical. Everyone loves someone who knows what they are good at and what they aren’t. It’s especially endearing when you can be self-deprecating. You cannot be the a-hole who honestly thinks he or she is better than everyone else and acts accordingly. You aren’t perfect. Acknowledge it. Work on your weaknesses. Maximize your strengths.
  12. Surrounding yourself with people who make up for your weaknesses. A good leader gets more than good order-takers working with them. You need people who do the things you don’t do so well. Not good at long-term initiatives? Find someone who is. Not good at public speaking? Get someone who is. Don’t like to read contracts? Find someone who will read them. I could go on and on, but you get the point.
  13. Being trustworthy. You must be able to keep a secret. If not, you won’t know what is going on in your company because no one will tell you anything.

I’m out of time now. And since I want to be a good leader, I will sign off here!

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

Want more of Mark Zweig's great leadership advise? Check out The Principals Academy, Zweig Group's 2-day course on business management for the A/E/P and Environmental Industry. It's worth 1.2 CEUs/ 12 PDHs!

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.