What are the Leadership Requirements for Project Managers in the Construction Sector today?

A talk was given by Stephen Redmond, MD of the Redmond Group to second-year undergraduates taking Project Management (MG2130) as distilled by Fintan Clear, Senior Lecturer, Brunel Business School and published on the Brunel Business School Blog.

Stephen Redmond, MD of Redmond Group Ltd ( ‘popped in’ to our Project Management class on 10th February 2021 to give us a talk about leadership requirements for construction projects. Given the current Covid-19 restrictions, Stephen had to give his talk virtually to the second-year undergraduates, some of whom are living on campus but the majority of whom are at home across the world (including the UK). That did not inhibit the insightful nature of his comments and the help he was able to give students to understand better key project manager attributes and what leadership theory means in practice for construction projects. It goes without saying that without good leadership projects will fail.

Stephen highlighted essential attributes that project managers need. These include:

  • drive, commitment and passion for the job so that they can inspire colleagues to deliver good quality projects to time and within budget
  • good communication skills and an ability to develop close working relationships with colleagues and other stakeholders
  • good negotiating skills and innovative thinking so that they can solve a broad set of problems that are thrown up during projects on a daily basis
  • astute and diligent people who are commercially-aware – a business manager in addition to being a project manager so that they are able to take a broad view of projects and stakeholder needs in order to manage them effectively
  • personal integrity and honest dealing with project workers and other stakeholders
  • competency to deliver high quality work
  • good delegation skills so that the right person is allocated to the right job
  • ability to be cool under pressure so that they do not panic when problems arise
  • ability to work effectively with a broad group of stakeholders including the local community and bodies including the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), trade associations such as the CCS (Considerate Construction Scheme) and the HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) in order to assure legal compliance
  • in a ‘Red Ocean’ environment it is increasingly important that project managers (along with commercial managers) administer their project contracts correctly! Not to do so will leave their businesses exposed to disputes which can quickly end up in courts of adjudication. Unfortunately many small building contractors have fallen foul of such disputes, leading to their financial collapse. So quite apart from all the leadership requirements noted here, project managers also need to have an eye for detail including the ‘small print’ in contracts

Project managers need to be able to use different management styles and varied qualities in order to bind everyone involved under one vision. Gone are the brutal management methods of the 1950s and 1960s when project leaders such as the infamous ‘Elephant John’ used coercion and bullying to try to achieve project goals with little apparent care for the workers under his management.  

Project managers in modern day construction projects need to work smarter and to adopt a more enlightened and compassionate approach in their management style to accommodate the mental health needs of colleagues. So Stephen provides, for example, ‘well-being huts’ on site complete with plants, a forest canvas and the sound of birdsong to help people to de-stress and retain strong mental health.

Stephen also talked about his vision for the Redmond Group whose turnover he wants to grow from £6 million today to £100 million within 15 to 20 years. To do this he wants to be able to recruit graduates from a greater diversity of talent evident in universities such as Brunel. Besides different ethnicities he argues that the construction sector also needs greater numbers of women in order to meet future project requirements. The Redmond Group take diversity very seriously so that any bigoted behaviour is challenged by the project managers and if necessary the perpetrators are removed from the job.

Placement opportunities exist at Redmond Group that allow students to shadow project managers on site and to employ a forensically-controlled implementation system that acts to monitor and control the quality of work undertaken on projects. Individuals need to have passion and commitment, to be honest, and to accept people for what they are. Additionally they need to be interested in developing an awareness of the various needs of construction projects including those of all the different trades (e.g. carpentry, plumbing) found on site. Finally placement students need to be able to adopt standard construction site hours and to turn up on time. For those that are prepared to learn, the prospects for a rewarding career are good.

Author: Fintan Clear, Uxbridge, 01-03-21