Being a project manager in a construction project is a bit like being the Alpha in a wolf pack. The Alpha is a special wolf because his speed determines the rate of the pack and decides if his pack is successful in the hunt or not. The alpha does a lot of things for his pack, but, leading his pack to success usually in the form of getting prey and safety is the ultimate goal.
Success is expressed in many ways. And in construction, it is defined by being able to deliver a project on time and within budget. Sounds simple enough, but it’s extremely hard to do, especially in a construction setting where things are always changing, and curveballs are always present in every corner.
But how do you become a good leader so that you can lead your team to success? There are many books that have been written about leadership, but none of them are as enduring as the one written by the Chinese general, Sun Tzu is his book The Art of War which has been the basis of many successful books on leadership today.
Here are some words of wisdom about leadership from the book that even if it was written a long time ago still holds true until today.
Be A Servant Leader
“The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness.”
Being a servant leader seems paradoxical, but it merely means that a leader doesn’t ask anything from the members of their team that they have not done before or are not willing to do themselves. This doesn’t mean that you have to be with your team all the time, but you can make a conscious effort to do so every so often.
If you need any more examples, all you need to do is look at the lives of the leaders that practice this. If you are religious, Jesus Christ is a good example as someone who lived by this principle where he walked, ate and slept at the same places as his disciples. Alexander the Great, the famous conqueror was another servant leader who slept and ate in the same way as his soldiers when they were trying to cross the Hindi Kush Mountain.
A Leader Leads By Example
“A leader leads by example, not by force”
In parenting, they say that a child learns by example. The same goes for leading a team. When you want something done by your team, you have to be an example and do it first. For example, if you want your team to show discipline by being on time, you have to start doing it yourself first. Set the tone for your team to follow.
Leading by example is all about trust, having your team respect you, managing and motivating those under to get good results.
“I fully believe he was a good soldier, but I had him beheaded because he acted without orders.”
This quote is a little bit morbid. But, if you look closer, this verse talks about discipline which is important especially the field of construction. In construction, everybody has their own tasks to do to while ensuring that is within the rules and parameters of the construction drawings. And, unlike other disciplines, the margin of error when constructing something is small to nill.
As a leader, you should make sure that everybody knows their responsibility and the consequences of not doing it. Of course, you should practice discipline in yourself as well, so that you can lead by example.
And, when your people make mistakes, give them another chance and explain to them how or what they did wrong and how to fix it. If it’s done the second or third time, and you know that the instruction was clear, then, unfortunately, the team member has to suffer the consequences even if it’s something you don’t like to do.
Discipline is not about instilling fear in your team, it’s about instilling responsibility to each and every member of your team, as well as making them understand that not doing their job can have consequences both on themselves and the project.
“Know Yourself and You Will Win All Battles”
Before you can be a good leader, you have to first acknowledge what you can and what you can’t do and accept it. Being able to do that with yourself means that you are able to evaluate effectively and objectively what your team is capable of doing. Doing this will allow you to allocate resources and manpower more effectively.
Treat Your Workers Well
“Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley”
It is not a surprise when you read about businesses that succeed because they treat their workers right because ultimately the products of any business are the employees that work for them. In construction, a good leader makes sure that people who work for them are treated well in terms of salary, work hours, have access to construction site safety checklist among a host of other things to ensure the well-being of the crew.
A good leader has a genuine concern for their staff and while it may be difficult to be up close and personal with all the people who work for you especially when you are managing a big crew, try to make an effort to do so periodically. Your crew will appreciate the effort.
“The enlightened ruler lays his plans well ahead; the good general cultivates his resources.”
In the olden days, a good general would spend a lot of time strategizing and thinking about every possible permutation on how the war would end up. But nowadays, there is no actual war that has to be fought, but a leader can still make sure that he is ready for anything that might happen that can delay the project.
And, with today’s advances in technology, a good leader doesn’t have to guess anything. Project management software with scheduling features that run Critical Path Method, Gannt or PERT allows you to be ready with a backup plan for any unforeseen circumstances that might pop up.
Remember that a leader has a vision, and inspires people to follow them, while a manager has people work for them. Leadership is all about getting people to trust in your goals and work with you so that those goals are achieved. Managing is gearing more towards administration and making sure that the daily tasks are followed.
Successful project managers need to be both a strong and dependable leader as well as a manager so that they can get their entire team to go onboard and follow them to success.