Cultivating a Culture of Leadership

How to encourage emerging leaders in architecture practice and allow the next generation to succeed when succession planning.

As I regularly say, leadership is a choice. And there are two reasons why leaders might not be emerging in an architectural practice: many might be reluctant to do so (as I wrote about here), or the conditions might not be right to cultivate new leaders. My previous article indicates how you might make it easier for reluctant leaders to choose to do so, in this post I’m discussing how you might create better conditions.

Enrolment

If your team aren’t enrolled in the values, goals and vision of your practice, they’re likely to be less motivated to step up into leadership within the practice. By enrolling your team in the vision for the practice you’ll create a safety net. The team will feel more connected to the practice. And this vision forms a guardrail, guiding those choosing to step up into leadership. It reduces friction and gives them confidence in where and how they align their leadership.

Psychological safety

Psychological safety is mostly discussed in regard to practice wellbeing, but it’s equally important in developing your leadership team. It ensures your team are comfortable in the knowledge that they won’t be reprimanded or shamed for speaking up, taking action, or trying things and making mistakes. This safe space builds trust, offering your team the security they might need to step into their leadership agency.

Agency and autonomy

I’m going keep this short.

Very few will step into leadership if they don’t feel they have agency and autonomy to do so.

Time and space

It’s crucial your team has the time and space to choose to do more than their immediate work. If all their time is taken up with the day to day or work, they’ll not have the space for higher level leadership responsibilities.

Skills

It should go without saying, your team requires leadership skills. They can be learnt and they need to be practised. My top 5 leadership skills are: curiosity, empathy, humility, listening and generosity. They’re not the regular kind, but I’d assert more important than those traditionally identified. The skills, also especially crucial for leaders in architecture practice are: communication, giving and receiving feedback, having hard conversation, growth mindset and emotional intelligence. It stands repeating, all these can be learnt and they need to be practised. If your team is lacking in these skills, they’re unlikely to step up and lead successfully.

Remember

A leader is someone who supports others in doing their best work and being their best selves.

Leadership is an action, not a position.

Management is about taking power from others. Leadership is about giving power to others.

Conclusion

Following this advice does not guarantee members of your team will step up into leadership. It should, however, assist in cultivating a culture in which leading is both desirable and an option. Leadership, to some extent, needs to be emergent. Allowing people the space and time they personally need in to take on the added responsibilities. As their leader you need to provide the support and conditions for them to do so.

Start here.


Image by sergio souza [cropped and edited]

Hi! I’m Michael

I’m an architect and coach, helping the professional culture of the architecture profession. I believe the best way to do this is support leadership development.

I’ve worked in architecture for almost 30 years, and ran my own practice for 14 years. I understand architectural practice from the inside out. Fun Fact: my NSW architect’s registration is #10 007 and I have a license to skill.

I help practices work on their leadership team and strategies. Supporting practices to become more open, fluid, and adaptable. Realising the collective energy, passion, and capabilities of their people.

Interested in hearing I can help? Let’s chat about the leadership development of you or your team.
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