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The ABC's & DEF's of Leadership


As a woman in construction who loves the industry and would like to make a full career of it, learning and putting into practice the qualities of a great leader will only set you up for success. Whether you are an employee or an employer, strong leadership skills will escalate you.


Leadership is all the buzz lately. Well, it has been for a while now and rightfully so as we grow as a society and recognize that some things just aren’t working anymore and need updating. Leadership is one of those things. There are books, podcasts, articles, videos – so many resources and so much information available, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. So, what I have done here is narrowed it down to a handful (or two) of qualities great leaders have so you don’t feel too overwhelmed with all the information.


There are many styles or types of leadership, not all are effective for long term growth of the leader or to inspire long-lasting production and growth from your people. I’m not going to go through all the styles here, however I am going to address a few. For example, the authoritarian approach to leadership used to be the way to get people to act – asserting dominance over subordinates and expecting them to do what they are told. We all recognize that this approach no longer works in the workplace, however is still prevalent in the construction industry. How many of us have heard the yelling and cursing and threatening on a job site to get the work done? I know I certainly have! Although quite outdated, there is a place for this approach when you are in an emergency situation. The authoritarian approach is effective for short term, quick results and no longer works in the workplace.


The transactional approach is another one where your people are left uninspired and demotivated. Transactional is a one-dimensional approach to leadership and is usually based on a reward / punishment system for your people to perform. This leadership approach does not contribute to the growth of the person or the organization, however, it can produce short term results.


On the other hand, the transformational approach to leadership, the one I am focusing on here inspires and motivates your people for growth personally and professionally. When done well, you can build and lead a team of loyal, raving, fans that will do (almost) anything for the success of the group.


Take a read and see where you are doing well and where you could use some work. Plan to implement just one or two of the qualities into your leadership approach that you’re not currently doing. As you’re ready, add more.


You don't have to have an official title as a leader to be a great leader. Inspiring others to show up as their best self and motivating them to work hard and be productive are traits of a true transformational leader. And learning how to do that, makes you invaluable to any organization, at any level.


So, what are the qualities of a great leader? There are many. I have taken some of those qualities and broken them down into the ABC’s and the DEF’s below.


The ABC’s

The A’s of Leadership

  1. Action – be an action taker, for your people. Be involved. A great leader leads by showing, not telling. Be part of the action that gets the group to where they are going. Sitting back in the office and barking orders inspires and motivates no one. If you want work to be done, be part of the doing.

  2. Affirm – Show gratitude for the work they are doing and how they are contributing to the overall mission of the group. Showing appreciation, especially in front of a group, goes a long way to building trust and buy-in.

  3. Attention – pay attention, give attention. Affirming your people is part of giving attention. Know what is going on with your people and take action, as required for the group or the person to address any issues. Burying your head in the sand and hoping issues disappear is not an effective leadership tool.

  4. Awareness – everything starts with awareness. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses, where you excel and where you can improve. Also being aware of the strengths and weaknesses of your people. When you are aware, you have the ability to optimize the performance of the group.

The B’s of Leadership

  1. Believe – believe in the mission, the vision and the abilities of your people to do the work. Believe in your people, give them responsibilities appropriate to their pay grade and believe they will be successful. When you show your belief and trust in your people they will strive to succeed.

  2. Bold – lead with confidence. Coming across as confident helps to build trust in you.

  3. Build (trust) – to build trust you need to be seen as operating with integrity, honesty and transparency.

  4. Buy in – the whole point to being a great leader is to get buy-in from your people. When they buy into the mission, vision and goals of the company or group that is when they feel part of something greater than themselves and are excited to contribute. Productivity will go up, sense of satisfaction will go up and connection will go up.

The C’s of Leadership

  1. Care – don’t just focus on work, focus on the people and how they are doing. Genuinely show you care about the person and they will feel more connected to you as a leader.

  2. Clarity – be clear on your mission, vision and goals and share them with your people, show them that they are needed and what their role is in reaching the goal. Being clear on this helps to maintain focus and makes decision making easier.

  3. Communicate – good communication is the key to any good relationship. When you communicate relevant information, your people will feel respected and appreciated. They will feel like they are part of a team that values each other. Keep your people in the loop so they feel empowered in their position.

  4. Consistency – great leaders must be consistent, doing the same things the same way and applying things fairly. Your people need to trust that you will do what you say you’re going to do.

The DEF’s

The D’s of Leadership

  1. Decisiveness – a great leader is a decision maker. You’re not afraid of making a decision. You collect the data you need to be informed, you take feedback and input from your people and you make the decision.

  2. Develop – provide opportunity for your people to develop their skills and become better at their craft. This may be by formal training programs or courses, in-house training or it could be by providing opportunities outside their regular duties where they have an opportunity to expand their knowledge and experience base. Not only is this good for their confidence, but it is also good for the group when people are stepping out of their comfort zone and growing and increasing what they have to contribute.

  3. Direct – a great leader is not afraid to speak directly to a subject or issue. They know that being direct is the clearest way to deliver a message and quickest way to the solution. It means being concise when you speak and keeping points relevant.

  4. Disciplined – there is so much to discipline, this is a big one. Great leaders are disciplined in their personal and professional life. A great leader has rituals and routines they perform on a consistent, daily basis. Having discipline is doing the things you don’t want to do, when you don’t want to do them. Ouch!

The E’s of Leadership

  1. Empathy – demonstrating empathy helps to build trust because your people feel that you understand them or can relate to them and that you care enough to do so.

  2. Encouragement – acknowledging a job well done, large or small will inspire your people to be better and build their confidence to take on more challenging tasks.

The F’s of Leadership

  1. Fairness – playing favoritism breaks down trust and will dissolve the cohesiveness of the unit. Everything must be applied in a way that is perceived as fair, otherwise you risk losing the trust of your people.

  2. Feedback – give your people feedback often. Offer positive feedback as well as constructive criticism in a respectful way. Informal, off-the-cuff feedback as well as regularly scheduled meetings to review performance, should be included.

  3. Flexible – being flexible will allow you to adapt in uncertain times or circumstances so you can overcome challenges on the way to meeting your goals. It’s keeping the end game in mind and not being committed to the journey to get there, being willing to change as necessary to meet the goal.

  4. Focus – you want to be focused on your mission, vision and goal and demonstrate the importance of focus to your people with everything you do. Losing focus on these elements creates confusion and lack of direction. It can leave your people floundering. Stay focused on what you are working toward and your people will follow your lead.

A lot of these qualities are interconnected. For example, being aware and paying attention will put you in a position to provide real time feedback and show that you care. Being disciplined and consistent will increase respect and buy-in from your people. Being clear on your mission and staying focused on the end goal will build trust and again increase buy-in.


To learn more about being a great leader and to build your leadership skills, I have a few recommendations. The first is the book “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg where she discusses the gender imbalance in leadership roles that exists across all industries and what she believes is part of the problem based on the data and research. She discusses confidence and leadership and ways for women to move into leadership roles.


The second is a podcast called Women in Construction Leadership Podcast hosted by Missy Scherber and Sunny Bowman. I only came across this podcast when doing research for this article and was incredibly surprised to find it. Missy and Sunny speak on all things leadership for women in construction, including highlighting women leaders in the industry and business empowerment. It’s new, they have one season released. The last episode was released in August, I’m truly hopeful they continue to produce this as I know the industry needs this information.


Finally, I offer a workshop for women wanting to be a better leader in the construction industry to put them in position to advance their career called “Lead with Confidence for Women in Construction”. In this half-day workshop we discuss what great leadership looks like, the skills and traits of great leaders, how to build your leadership skills and strategies for boosting confidence as a leader in the construction industry. The women leave with a greater understanding of what takes to be a great leader as well as tasks and tools to put in place to strengthen leadership skills daily. You can connect with me to learn more.


What it comes down to is to be a good leader you need to value your people, genuinely care about their well-being and growth, providing them opportunities to grow and excel in their position in your group or company. Listen to them, value their input and make them feel like they are part of and contributing to something greater than themselves. When you take care of your people, your people will take care of you.


If you are looking for support for your growth in the construction industry, get in touch to schedule your free consultation by filling out our online needs assessment today at www.ThriveHQ.ca. Because there is a better way.



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