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How Being a Construction Leader, Not a Boss, Can Build Business Success

The terms “boss” and “leader” may sound interchangeable, but there are distinct differences. Here are some ways to transition from boss to leader.

Bradford Randall

February 16, 2023

3 Min Read
Planning and directing the completion of a new site. Shot of a woman using a walkie talkie while working at a construction
Yuri Arcurs / Alamy Stock Photo

The difference between bosses and leaders may not seem apparent, but one versus the other can make all the difference when it comes to the success of a construction company. Corey Adams, the owner of Elite Drainage and Foundation Repair, said leadership involves taking responsibility for your actions and growing your employees’ skills.

Recently, Adams touched on what makes a leader at a World of Concrete educational session he hosted in Las Vegas.

He said when it comes to developing leadership skills, reinforcing preexisting professional strengths can be more effective than trying to turn weaknesses into strengths.

“Figure out what you do best and then make it even better.”

Adams said leadership also is about consistency.

“You have to be able to set policies and follow them to a tee,” he said. “This includes yourself if you’re an owner.”

Adams narrowed in on companies that have two sets of rules: one for everyone else and one for privileged people in a corporate structure, like spouses of executives. He said it sends the wrong message to have a climate wherein the rules don’t apply to all.

As a leader, it’s important to establish consistency for handling problems that arise and rewards given to employees for jobs well done. Adams took aim at what he called “arbitrary bonus amounts,” or the practice of giving an employee several hundred dollars under the table for exemplary work.

“How do you motivate the correct behavior when you haven’t given them any parameters to get the reward?” he asked rhetorically, adding that profit sharing is a far better option when it comes to motivating employees.

Leadership also involves growing employees to their fullest potential. Adams, who also owns 4 Sons Concrete & Masonry, said he wears it as a badge of honor when employees start rival companies.

“If you’ve never had anyone leave your company and start a business in direct competition in the exact same market, you’re not developing leaders,” he said.

He said leaders use resources in a way that creates the best possible outcome. “If there’s a guy who’s really good at finishing concrete, you don’t send him to go lay blocks,” Adams said.

Company owners should also think differently about their role in an organization. Adams said he hates the term “boss.”

“I’m not your boss. I’m a resource for you to get you where you want to go,” he said. “That’s what leadership is. Never forget the dichotomy of the company.”

Many bosses also pass blame to their workers. “They can always find someone or something to justify their mistakes,” Adams said, adding that’s not leadership, and it won’t help a company be successful.

Furthermore, Adams said leaders listen, but those who he considers “bosses” rarely listen, and when they do, they’re “just acting like they’re listening because some book or training module told them to act interested.

“We can dream up all the goals we want,” he said. “Until we learn how to communicate thoroughly, they’re never going to be in action.”

Excellent leaders also have imagination, they don’t get singularly focused and they’re not stubborn, according to Adams.

Finally, leaders focus forward with preemptive measures and actions. Those who aren’t leaders address problems as they arise, he said.

“A leader looks ahead and removes obstacles in the path,” he said. “The things that are going to prevent the team from moving forward.

About the Author(s)

Bradford Randall

Former Associate Editor, WOC360

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