The construction industry today is very similar to the construction twenty years ago as many operations, practices and operations have changed very little over the last decades. Though with the new era of technology some modernization has taken place still some theories are practiced the traditional way. In contrast the forces on industry organisation are changing at a rapid pace. These changes in building influence arises the problem of leader preparedness which is a primary concern in the construction industry over the next decade as industry’s increasing social, economic and environmental challenges has called into question its ability to create leaders that can develop leaders having the knowledge and skills to address rapidly changing business environments at all organisational levels.
The leadership ability to transform the organisation as per the dynamic force market is essential for sustained success in construction industry. Also, the ability for leaders to both motivate the internal workforce as well as communicate to a diverse project team is a challenge to individuals for developing their communication skills.
To understand the significance of leadership in construction industry we must first understand what are leader and leadership and how they are formed.
LEADER AND LEADERSHIP
In general terms, leadership is a quality that a person possesses to motivate other people to accomplish their objective and that person is called a leader.
“Leader is a person who could motivate/attract the commitment of the followers by way of influence or power to achieve the goals of the organisation.” (Cole, 2005)
“Leadership at work is a dynamic process whereby one individual in a group is not only responsible for the group’s results, but actively seeks the collaboration and commitment of all group members in achieving group goals in a particular context and against the background of a particular national culture.” (Cole, 2005)
The role of a leader is building a team, development of individuals and achievement of a task. The ‘leader’ should have the following characteristics:
- Understanding needs - The leader should understand his/her needs along with the needs and characteristics of each participant in a group. This helps to know a person as an individual, treating them with respect and helping in growth of that individual which leads to the formation of trust and builds confidence amongst participants. All this allows a proper planning of project i.e. is the first step in the process for achieving a respective goal. This can be done through conversation and informal surveys of participants.
- Using of Resources - Resources include all the things required to complete a job. People are resources as they have knowledge and skill. Knowledge comes from experience while skill is the ability to use your experiences. When the leader brings into use the knowledge and skill of group members they develop experience and improve their skills also getting a positive approach towards it. This comes from proper understanding of the participants as discussed above.
- Communication - Only a good communication amongst the team can lead to successful completion of a task. For getting information the leader must listen carefully and pay attention to other people’s thoughts and each group member should be given a chance to speak. While giving information the leader should speak slowly and clearly so that the members can listen carefully and understand leader’s ideas effectively.
- Planning - Planning is a very important aspect achieved while exploring via thorough consideration of: task and objective, resources, alternatives and brainstorming. This helps in reaching a decision and reviewing it with all the participants. The plan is then evaluated and executed. A proper planning of task is a major factor that analyses the successful completion of a job.
- Controlling group performance - A group works together best when it is headed in the same direction and for that someone must lead the effort. Control is a function that the group assigns to the leader for completion of task. Control comes from understanding where the group is right now and where it is heading. This can be done by thorough observation of the happenings, clear instructions and helping to quickly deal with disruptions.
- Evaluation - Evaluation helps in measuring the performance of a group in getting a job done and teamwork quality. It also helps in analysing the level of performance along with the merits and demerits of the task done in a particular way.
- Setting an Example and sharing Leadership - It is probably the most important skill needed in a leader, to set him/her as an example for others on how to be an ideal leader. The leader should also share their experience and skill with the group participants to help them succeed.
- Motivating and persuading others
- Taking responsibility for the direction and actions of a team
- Setting of objectives for proper evaluation
- Taking the initiative
- Persevering when things are not working out.
- Taking a positive attitude to frustration/failure.
- Taking the initiative and responding flexibly to changing situations
- Presenting a positive image in front of others. Being assertive
- Accepting responsibility for mistakes/wrong decisions.
TYPES OF LEADERS
- Charismatic/Transformational- Leadership is not good or bad by itself but by how it is portrayed in front of others and for what purpose it is being used. History has seen many charismatic misleaders like Hitler, Mao, and Stalin who inflicted evil and sufferings on humanity. Personal qualities and traits are not acquired by training; they are embedded in them since birth. Charismatic leaders inspire the followers through their vision and energy which has a major impact on them whether it is good or evil. Unlike Hitler and Mao, there were some charismatic leaders who worked for the benefit of humanity and betterment of the society like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Abraham Lincoln etc.
- Traditional/Transactional- The leaders who fall under this category have their position secured since birth. Only few people can aspire to be like them and have a few opportunities at work. For example: Kings, Queens, and Tribal Chieftains etc.
- Situational- They are created as per the given situation. Their position is temporary and become effective when found at right place at the right time like a project manager.
- Appointed- Such leaders have legitimate powers that they acquire through hierarchy. They influence people directly out of position and their power of the position is derived. For example: CEO, MD, GM etc.
- Functional- Functional leaders secure their position by the quality of work they do. They adapt according to the competing needs of the society that consists of individual needs, group needs and task needs.
- Principle Centred- Principle centred leaders are strongly affected by ethical and moral principles. Their quality of work shows this used of ethics which involves honesty, fairness, trust, justice and equity among others.
POWER AND INFLUENCE
With leadership comes power and influence which are important factors that help in the motivation of team.
Power is the ability to exert influence that is, to change the attitudes or behaviour of individuals or groups.
Influence is any action or examples of behaviour that causes a change in attitude or behaviour of another person/ group.
(Leadership- Lecture Notes, Pg. 37, 2012)
Major leadership theories are mentioned as under:
- Trait Theories- Helps in identification of personal characteristics of leaders which differentiate them from non-leaders. Some of these characteristics include energy, intelligence, and resourcefulness etc.
- Style Theories- Related to behavioural approach as leaders are born not made. Shows concern for people and task. Can be authoritative or democratic.
- Contingency Theories- Such theories focus on particular variables that determine which style is best suited for any situation. As per this theory not every style is suitable for all situations. Success depends on leader-member relations, degree of structure in the task and power/authority of the position.
- Participatory Theories- Suggests that the ideal leader is one that takes the input of others into account. These leaders encourage participation and contributions from group members and make them feel more involved in the process. It calculates to what extent the opinions of members are utilised in decision making.
LEADERSHIP vs. MANAGEMENT
Often people confuse leadership with management though they both differ from each other on so many levels. A manager is appointed while leadership is earned in most cases.
Managers can be characterised as people who imitate, establish clear targets, make short term decisions, solve short term problems, enact visions and do things right. They employ the so-called “hard” skills such as planning, directing, organising and keeping score. On the other hand, leaders employ many of the “softer” skills. They direct and guide people; influence thoughts and behaviours; motivate; encourage work towards goals; take risks; innovate; have a long-range perspective; have their eye on the horizon; create visions and do the right things. (Leadership vs. Management, Leadership in the Construction Industry, Pg. 5)
According to Covey (1992)
Leadership deals with direction- with making sure that the ladder is leaning against the right wall. Management deals with speed. Leadership deals with vision-with keeping the mission in sight- and with effectiveness and results. Management deals establishing structures and systems to get those results.
Leadership focuses on the top line and management on the bottom line.
Leadership derives its powers from values and correct principles. Management organises resources to serve selected objective to produce bottom line.
Management and Leadership are not mutually exclusive; in factâ€¦. leadership is the highest component of management.
To summarise, the manager must have certain leadership qualities to take their organisation towards success by motivating people to achieve that success.
According to the Eagan Report
The Eagan Report identifies five drivers of change necessary to ensure greater profitability as well as better quality in the Construction Industry:
- A focus on the customer
- Integrated processes and teams
- A quality driven agenda
- Commitment to people
(Leadership- Lecture Notes, Pg. 40, 2012)
LEADERSHIP IN CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY
Construction industry is very complex and is often met with various problems which are non-completion of a job, non-availability of labour, Community barriers between workers and goods availability which leads to delay in productivity and effectiveness on construction sites many of which arrive from inadequate understanding of leadership and job relationships.
Leadership in different sectors of construction industry
- Health and Safety- Leadership in health and safety sector is of strong importance as this sector deals with health related issues for labour along with other people who are related to a construction project. This sector has zero tolerance policies, industry initiatives and high level of investment.
- Sustainability- Sustainability is an important sector for the industry to consider. The construction done on a site should be sustainable and environment friendly in current time as per the urgency of the sustainability agenda. So the leader should be well aware of the ill effects a particular action that is performed will have on the nature.
- Business ethics- Business ethics are also a major factor in the success of a task. A leader must be well aware of all the business rules and changes that are occurring in the construction industry to make his team lead in the right direction and as per the building regulations. This provides a strong base for a leader by making them flexible and well aware of the current surroundings.
- Education and Training- Proper education and training helps in becoming an ideal leader. This sector focuses on education and experience of the leader and group members to put alike people with each other. This helps in creating harmony and trust between the members which in turn helps in successful completion of a job.
In construction industry the requirements for an effective leader are as follows
- Good communication skills
- Understanding of business
- Strategic vision
- Charisma and Inspiration
- Good listener
- Flexible i.e. open to changes
The weakest leadership qualities are identified as poor communication skills, lack of time, lack of general management skills, impatience, lack of decisiveness and not delegating enough. Also there is a presence of untapped leadership potential within the industry. Many areas of weak leadership can be addressed through industry training and other leadership development programmes. Improvement in communication and general management skills are two areas in particular that are of topmost priority. Organisational culture and lack of opportunities are the major drawbacks in the construction industry which stops an individual from reaching their highest potential.
How to improve leaders?
As discussed above many of the problems in construction industry arise due to poor leadership skills and to improve leadership qualities following steps should be taken:
New experiences, the most valuable way to improve leadership ability. This includes mentoring or anything else that gives an individual a new hands-on experience and exposure.
Clear direction and guidelines are important to improve individual leaders in the industry. This reinforces the importance of empowerment, development of leaders at all levels of seniority and corporate strategic planning.
Skills, education, training and qualifications are also required to be present in any leader.
To achieve the above qualities various character development workshops and programmes can be held within an organisation to make people understand the concept of leadership better and to know more about leadership skills tailored specifically for construction based professionals. These workshops must include programmes focusing on communication skills and general management training, education and training, mentoring schemes, work experience, and secondment programmes. They should also include strategies for identifying the leaders of the future, and for rewarding and celebrating success.
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Leaders are of utmost requirement these days to complete a given job. The leaders help in creating group cohesiveness which helps in proper utilisation of the teamwork. The leaders are born and not created though certain steps can be taken to brush up their skills. The leadership development workshops can help in improving the leadership skills of people which will in turn help in the betterment of the construction industry. Also, the main drawbacks in the construction industry related to incompletion of a task can be tackled effectively if positive steps are taken in that direction. Great leaders will be created that will work for the industry and give their hundred per cent to achieve a task.
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