Leadership vs. Management in Construction

Nov 20, 2020 | Construction, Leadership

In our previous post, we touched on how the US military differs from the corporate world in that it trains leaders more effectively than it does managers.

While it may not seem obvious, leadership and management are actually two different skill sets. Both are as necessary as the other, and in many ways, they depend on one another. 

This is certainly the case in the development and construction world, particularly in the style of development we employ, which we call “Do-It-Together Development.”

The four main tenets of DIT Development are as follows:

  1. Build your team early
  2. Leverage your team’s talents
  3. Protect your time
  4. Manage your project proactively

Part of abiding by these four tenets is the concept of running processes concurrently instead of sequentially. In other words, we encourage and practice having as many phases of a project running at the same time as possible. This allows you to plan and execute a schedule that will help you deliver your project – as we say – on time, on budget, or better. 

A manager (specifically a project manager, in our world) is responsible for the planning and execution of those processes. The manager is resourceful, using every asset at their disposal to accomplish the end result, and hit every target along the way. 

For example, there are submittals as well as RFI’s (requests for information). These processes have to be carefully monitored to make sure that delays don’t creep into the big picture. 

Submittals that are not answered on time, or even submitted on time for that matter, ultimately lead to delays because you can’t order the materials on time. This causes a trickle-down effect. Losing one day on five different items actually equals more than five days lost on the critical path.

A manager is a problem-solver. To be effective, a manager must be impartial about how they solve a problem, setting aside their personal views in accomplishing the goal. They are an instrument that has a crucial part to play in support of the vision.

If managers are the instruments, then the leader is, indeed, the composer. 

A leader has vision. A leader establishes the tone, lays out the policies, and sets the direction for the overall project in concert with that vision. 

Their talents lie less in building a team and assigning roles to its members, but rather in communicating their vision to that team and inspiring them to want to be an instrument that serves the vision precisely and beautifully. 

While an effective manager divorces their emotions and personal biases from their approach to a project, an effective leader is defined by them. Their unique perspective and personal touch is often what sets the work of them and their team apart from others. 

In simple terms, management is process-based and leadership is people-based. You manage processes, and you lead people. 

At Peak, we believe that the relationship between leaders and managers is not hierarchical. They are not stages of a pecking order. Rather, they are the right and left hand of our organization and our DIT Development philosophy.

When management and leadership are aligned, playing their roles with passion, everyone gets to the top together. 

About the author

Lee Crewson

Lee Crewson

Founder & President

Lee has made commercial construction management his life’s work, focusing on building places where people live like multi-family, hospitality, student housing, and senior living for successful developers. He’s also committed to the values of this country and has over twenty five years of service in both the active and reserve forces as a Commissioned Officer in the US military. Lee embraces the power of a committed team that collaborates early and often and is happy to guide any developer who shares the same philosophy for success.