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Growth requires fresh approach to leadership

As the construction industry emerges from recession, we tend to scrutinise individual companies’ financial results to compare and contrast how they are faring.

Companies’ statements will usually indicate the strength of their forward order books. But accounts and numbers are by their nature backward looking.

To get a true picture of where a business is heading, it’s more important to look at the company’s strategy for the next five years and - significantly - who is going to deliver that strategy and how.

Leading a construction business during a period of growth can be as difficult as leading it through a recession.

Same factors, new strategy

Many of the qualities that make a great leader might be the same - effective communication, motivation of staff, appropriate delegating of responsibility.

But the business strategy and its goals may look quite different, requiring a significant shift in approach and culture to ensure they are delivered. This has to come from the top.

“What’s striking is how much these leaders have in common, regardless of the precise focus of the businesses they’re running”

This week we’ve spoken to leaders from across the industry - those heading some of the UK’s largest businesses and specialists - to find out how they are approaching leadership at a time of growth.

Many have led the business throughout the recession, have had to hunker down and take really tough decisions and must now face the same staff with a very different set of messages.

All of them face the challenge of how they manage resources during a time of growth.

Common threads between contractors

The leaders of companies including Balfour Beatty Construction Services UK, Costain, Merryhill Envirotec, Interserve, Skanska, Van Elle and Wates share their experiences, while experts in professional development from outside the industry offer their advice for those who lead now - and those who aspire to.

What’s striking is how much these leaders have in common, regardless of the precise focus of the businesses they’re running.

And of course their advice is useful to managers at all levels: while the chief executive may be the face of the business, much of what determines a company’s culture is how their vision from the top is transmitted throughout the hierarchy.

Outside the industry, all too often people think construction is just about buildings and infrastructure. But on the inside we know it’s also about people and relationships.

Effective leadership is what makes a successful business - in good times and in bad.

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