by Greg Burke, FAIA
It is often said the leaders don’t create followers, they create other leaders. Why is this important?
Leadership is not a mystical thing that is often hard to identify but can be seen in just about everyone who involves themselves in operating in and for a business. Not everyone is cut out to be a leader though. Leadership is a trait that is inherent in the personality and capabilities of an individual. Leadership is that innate quality in a person that inspires others to do things that may have not thought themselves possible of doing.
It should be noted that leadership and management are two drastically different things. That statement made, we should not discount the fact that a good leader can also be a good manager. But the skills required to be a leader are much different than those of a manager and the two can work together without conflict if done properly. In business, often the two terms are used interchangeably, but they do have distinct characteristics. Many organizations term their management group as the leadership team. While many managers can be called leaders, it can be seen in the positive results of what the managers bring to the business. If a manager continues to expand the business, it can be understood that the manager is a leader. Positive results are certainly a metric of success and leadership. Managers who maintain the status quo are likely not to be considered as leaders. This should not be understood to be a negative. Every organization needs managers who can handle process and operations effectively, but their management style may not be that of a leader.
Leadership involves ideas and communication. Either or both can be original or borrowed. The two facts illustrate that a leader can be someone who is super creative and capable of expressing their ideas or someone who has learned through the school of hard knocks what it takes to get to the point of inspiring others. Both of these statements show that just about anyone can become a leader. Leadership is a highly personal trait that can be manifested in many different ways.
Innovation may be at the top of the list of what a leader provides. Depending on the leaders personality and style, their drive to innovation can have positive and not so positive results. Their ability to manage the innovation becomes a primary role of what they do. As is the case in many endeavors, there may be unintended consequences of any new innovation or shift in “…that’s the way we always do it…” thinking.
The EntreArchitect community consists of small firms. Leadership may or may not be a focus of what a small firm has as a priority. I will put forward that leadership is more important to the success of a small firm than a large firm’s long-term success. Large firms got that way because there are and were leaders who distinguished a smaller organization to become a larger firm. I worked for Art Gensler in the 1980’s. At they time Gensler had been the largest architecture firm in the United States and had been for about a decade. Art started out with two associates. His natural ability to “sell the sizzle” was a leadership characteristic that grew the firm to be the largest US architecture firm with offices all over the world. Art has since retired and is Chairman Emeritus. The firm continues to grow and is considering a leader in the profession.
Not every firm has to be Gensler. The small firm may not have that ambition. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. Staying small may be exactly what the firm leader is best at handling. Their leadership style will determine if they are around in the future.
In the coming weeks I intend to explore what traits make a leader. I will take a look at the differences between leaders and managers and what a person who is both may look like. If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear them.
Greg Burke, FAIA is president of Gregory John Burke | ARCHITECT, PA located in St. Augustine, Florida. He was elevated to the AIA College of Fellows in 2018 for his more than four decades of professional leadership, mentoring and governmental advocacy.