Are leaders born or made? The truth is, a little bit of both. Empirical data says one-third of us have leadership traits within us, but two-thirds of us create ourselves as leaders.
At CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2017, Linda Talley, behavioral theorist, and Connie Leipard, president, Quality Drywall Construction, led a discussion on women in construction, the myths and truths of leadership, the role gender plays in effective leadership, and how to continuously develop your leadership style.
A leadership trait could be ambition, high energy, high IQ or high emotional intelligence. While you may not be able to improve your IQ, you can improve your emotional intelligence. Higher emotional intelligence improves your performance and makes you a more effective leader.
Leadership development is a continuous process and devoting time and energy to your personal development as a leader does pay off.
Equip yourself with the skills you need to become a better leader by following these steps:
1. Master the details
Construction is very intense when it comes the knowledge and technical expertise required to do the job effectively. Learning the technical aspects of the job can boost your confidence and help you gain experience.
2. Find a mentor
We all wish we had a mentor, but how do you find one? Don’t be afraid to ask people for help. Most people are more than willing to let you pick their brain. The worst they can say is no. And don’t just stop with colleagues. Join industry associations (like National Association of Women in Construction) to extend your network and support system. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and push you to try new things.
3. Think strategically
Women tend to be more tactical; they were raised that way. Wash the dishes. Fold the laundry. Do the shopping. However, if you want to move up the ladder, you have to learn to become strategic in your thinking. Avoid getting stuck in the middle management rut by allowing others to perceive you as someone who “gets stuff done” but doesn’t bring big ideas to the table.
4. Be flexible in your approach
While you may have earned the respect of your colleagues, the same may not be said for vendors or clients. Understand the gender biases that exist and confront them when necessary. The key to moving forward in the industry as a woman is to stand tall in the face of adversity. If someone makes a negative comment or remark, just ask, what did you mean by that?
5. Bring people in
Being a leader means dealing with difficult situations and confrontation. If you’re dealing with an employee who isn’t a team player, engage with them on an individual basis. Let them know you value their viewpoint, even if it is a negative one. As a leader, you need to absorb and celebrate the feedback people give you to help steer culture of the organization in the right direction.
Finally, cement these skills into your repertoire by debriefing yourself at the end of each day. Ask yourself, what did you learn? Who was supportive of you? What did they teach you? Establishing this routine will help you find small victories and opportunities to advance.