Leadership in Architectural and Engineering Design Offices

As we use our own individual imagination to design and construct new building projects, we are sometimes forced to cope with many different viewpoints, and our imperfections are often being judged by others.  When a large number of people are working on a project, a high level of successful teamwork is required, and leadership is a key component to keep the team happy, motivated and thriving as one complete unit. All architect firms need an architectural design team leader or, depending on size, various team managers, project managers and engineers, while the owner of the office (CEO) is the formal leader of the entire organization.

Effective leadership is much more than developing an appropriate vision for the company, motivating people to follow that vision is critical. The right skills of a leader and a supportive work environment are key factors to keep the momentum going. Destructive leadership style can have devastating consequences for a company, not only for the financial stability and reputation but also for the motivation of employees and the confidence of clients.

Architect firm heads are usually the owner and CEO of the business. They require a high degree of people skills and social competence to lead the team, and strong business acumen to ensure all departments are operating as needed.  The owners of an architect firm are often extremely knowledgeable and driven architects who have confidence in their abilities to serve as a single entity without relying on financial support or salary security that they would have working in another firm.  Architect firms can grow at the pace that they choose, should they wish to operate internationally then usually they will require a good reputation and have an array of expertise in their field with major design projects to back up their credentials.  Often the whole organization can rest on the CEO’s head when projects are not running smoothly, or new business is slow.  They have to stay healthy, together and determined to guide the entire team through any painful periods.

Lead architects are key in any design firm, and the behaviour of the lead architects are important factors in the performance of the design team of any construction project. The lead architects must be not only a great designer but also an effective and resilient leader.  They are incredibly creative individuals and have an in-depth knowledge of architecture and the processes involved once the project commences on-site.  They are very well respected both internally and externally and will often be the head point of contact and problem solver for the organization.

Architecture leaders are very creative individuals and will often vision ideas and concepts with no comparison for others to understand where this vision has come from.  It would seem as they are holding a secret pot of creative ideas that only a select few individuals have access too! Of course, this is not the case, all architects have amazing ideas and concepts, and when these ideas come to creation, they are then in a position to achieving greater career development.  The key components for success there-after are down to whether the person can develop their skills outside of architecture.  They need to become an inspiring, motivational and respected leader; they need to understand strengths and weaknesses; they need to be approachable and open their mind and listen to others. If they are liked and appreciated, then they will have the full backing of anyone in their team.  After they have mastered the personality skill’s, they can then tackle the mind further by broadening their scope in the real business world. They must learn and understand many other areas of a business such as accounts, administration and marketing.  This is something that can be learnt and grow with real-life experience.

When architect firms utilise their skills outside the design studio and onto construction projects, they will often require a chief engineer and project manager.  These individuals are required to be versatile, robust and resilient; they are often dealing with various challenges with contractors, MEP employees, planners and various other entities. They need to manage and co-ordinate the site in a timely and cost-effective manner and keep things moving along as per the schedule set out.  Often, they face difficult situations that can hinder project completion dates and cost management etc.  They need to be very well organized and always put the client’s objectives as a priority to ensure deadlines are met.  Having great people management skills and vast knowledge of all aspects of the construction industry is imperative.  They need to ensure that they fulfil the requirements of the original design concept, yet also ensuring, safety and local/national regulations are adhered too.

As you grow your expertise in the design and construction industry, you will learn to understand all aspects of a design and build a project from concept to completion. Your knowledge will expand, and your experience will determine future aspirations.

All successful leaders have must have some common traits that are key attributes to success.

  • Honesty and integrity.
  • Inspire Others.
  • Commitment and Passion.
  • Good Communicator.
  • Decision Making Capabilities.
  • Delegation and Empowerment.

Should you have these skills then your future in leadership is already mapped out and you are in a strong position to grow further in the architecture and engineering field.


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