Issues Surrounding Barriers To Leadership And Leadership Development Management Essay

Current leadership practised today goes further than getting people to do what a leader wants them to do. Leadership today is concerned with bringing out the best quality of ability people have to offer and helping to focus an individual’s energy and zeal along a united front to achieve common goals. Outstanding leaders assess their own abilities to lead. Today’s leaders build teams and oversee the essential elements of teamwork-communication, cooperation, and collaboration. Effective leaders promote shared values among employees, such as open communication, honesty, quality, respect, and mutual support. A clearer understanding of what leadership and leadership development means is necessary in other to understand the issues surrounding barriers to effective leadership and development the construction industry.

Leadership as a term has different meaning to different individuals and organisations. “Prof. Kenneth Clark defined leadership as an activity or set of activities, observable to others that occur in a group, organisation or institution or institution involving a leader and followers who willingly subscribe to common purposes and work together to achieve them”. (Philip 2003). “Harry Truman also defined it as the ability to get men to do what they don’t want to do and like it” (Philip 2003).

On the other hand, Leadership development refers to any activity that improves the quality of leadership within an organisation. These activities could range from courses offered in schools to seminars and retreats focused on developing the leadership skills and attitudes of individuals.

In the world today, the construction industry plays a major role in the national economy of countries both developed and developing due to the high demand for industrialisation and urbanisation. Due to this fact, essential and effective leadership skills such as good communication skills, Strategic vision and an understanding of the industry are the most essential traits required. The right leadership in the construction industry results in self-managed teams and shared leadership among team members. Leadership development will be required for the advancement, growth, and continued existence of construction businesses in the next millennium. Unfortunately, from the research survey carried out by the chartered institute of building (CIOB) in 2008, the construction industry as a whole was lacking in leadership and most companies in the industry were lacking in developing leadership potentials of employees due to a lot of barriers. This essay is focused on identifying these barriers and critically discussing issues surrounding them.

Looking at the construction industry in general, irrespective of country, it was discovered that the a lot of barriers hampered the growth of leadership and leadership development, based on a research survey carried out by the chartered institute of building (CIOB) in 2008, where questionnaires were administered to members of the institute and members of other organisations in the construction industry. Results obtained showed that the major barriers to leadership development and leaders reaching their maximum potential were a lack of opportunity and organisational culture. Other barriers identified were poor communication skills, lack of skills and training, lack of general management skills in work force, lack of incentives, political environment, society/national culture, self confidence, and autocratic management. Further barriers to leadership development where, lack of leadership development programs and individual/personal barriers.

However, a lot of issues are what gives rise to these barriers which makes it impossible for proper leadership development in the construction industry. These issues in one way or another are inter related to all the barriers obstructing leadership.

Many of the problems arising in an organisation are as a result of people failing to communicate properly which degenerates to confusions and leads to failure in project plan. Communication basically referred to as the exchange of information and ideas from one person to another.

A lot of issues arise which make it impossible for leaders to communicate effectively with other members of the organisation in the construction industry. One of this is problem of perception, which adversely affects how we interpret a message gotten from another based on how we perceive the person and sometimes the wrong message is delivered and ultimately has an adverse effect on a project. Secondly, is the problems of culture, background and bias, which makes people to be prejudiced at times ultimately affecting the way a message is received and interpreted thus interfering with the communication process. Thirdly, is the personal attitude of an individual, such as focusing on one’s self and feeling superior to others or defensive towards them and sometimes just plain ego hinders effective communication which results in conflicts and confusion arising. Other issues which also hinders effective communication could also be due to stress, as individuals tend to react differently when under stress and thus affects the way a message is received and understood for the proper instructions to be carried out.

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Organisational structure is another key barrier to leadership development in the construction industry. The organisational culture is simply referred to as the a system of shared values, attitudes, beliefs, and experiences of an organisation which has being acquired over a period of time which distinguish one organisation from another and affects the way in which members of the organisation react to the opportunities and threats affecting the organisation.

Sometimes, this culture has an adverse effect on an organisation and acts as a barrier to change and diversity whereby, the culture is so ingrained that they are ok with the working dynamics and refuse to respond to change from a new leader trying to bring about change or introducing leadership development programme which will improve the organisation but prefer the status quo. Employees are thus, forced to conform to existing culture and potential leadership qualities in employees are subdued and never achieved which affects leadership development in the organisation.

A clear example of this, is seen in the UK construction industry which is seen as a predominantly male (that is young white male) dominated, coupled with harsh working conditions which has been translated into a culture embodying crisis, conflict, masculinity and embracing a casual approach to working norms of commitment. This has being summed up accordingly by Harvey and Ashworth (1993)”as construction having an image of being a difficult, demanding and unbecoming occupation with an adversarial culture”. Gale (1992) also observed that,”….it seems that it is in the interest of those who have chosen to work in the industry to maintain the maleness of the culture, thus keeping conflict and crises as preferred aspects of everyday working life”. This culture of the industry makes it difficult for female, other ethnic minorities and better educated people from considering construction as a worthwhile career option which will bring about a change in the industry as a lot of this individual could have potential leadership qualities which will make the industry to be better organised and developed.

This organisational culture has made it a particularly unattractive profession for potential individuals who might consider going into the profession as it is alleged to have a casual, fragmented and hierarchical nature which makes it incapable of functioning in a harmonized, homogenous way when dealing with issues relating to development, training, education etc. This fact has being recognised by professionals and clients in the industry and acts as a major barrier for potential change to occur in the organisation as members are strongly opposed to change occurring in the industry.

The society/national culture also acts as a barrier to most leadership development and the potential for leadership to be developed in organisations. A typical example of this is seen the Nigerian context where the cultural characteristic of leadership in Nigerian society is mostly patrimonial-based on hereditary within members of a family. The leadership mantle is masculine which is mainly handed down to the first male child and where this is unattainable, other family members play a major role in the selection of predecessors to head the organisation. Family members also have strong influences on the decisions taken by these leaders who may or may not have acquired the proper training qualification or skills that is required from a leader. A notable case of patrimonial selected leadership can be seen in DANTATA & SAWOE which is arguably the most prominent indigenous construction company in Nigeria. Like most indigenous companies, it is owned by a family with about fifty years of existence and its leadership has gone through the generations of the kin of the founder and is still expected to go down the lineage. With this style of leadership style, there is the tendency for individual leaders to try to distinguish themselves and carve out a niche for himself. This may lead either to the leader given diminutive chances for various individuals under him to participate and air their views in such organizations. Secondly, because the leadership consist of a group that shares similar beliefs and values, the organisation portray weakness in its cultural diversity and place more emphasis on their own culture.

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Further barriers to leadership and leadership development are a lack of opportunity and lack of skills and training in the industry. A general lack of opportunities exist in the industry for employees and individuals to improve their leadership skills and ability as most organisations under-invest in leadership development programmes and employees have no access to new experiences coupled with the fact that organisations failed to meet their employees expectation and needs all act as a barrier to improving leadership skills.

From the survey carried out by the CIOB, it showed that 25% believed that a lack of opportunity was the greatest barrier to potential leaders becoming leaders and that about 45% of companies in the industry did not have a formal succession plan or leadership strategy. A lack of leadership development program in most organisation is a key issue as most organisations do not invest in training their employees or improving their skills by organising seminars or sending them on courses which in the long run benefits the company or organisation by enabling the company to be better organised and co-ordinated. In some other cases, where training is offered by the organisation, the leadership development methodology is often wrong as employees receive this training without development as sometimes what is learnt is not applicable to the industry directly or entirely different.

Moreover, a shortage of skills in the industry also acts as a barrier to leadership development this is as a result of the poor image projected by the industry, low incomes and a lack of academic/vocational courses and apprenticeship where all contributing factors to a general lack of skill in the construction industry in UK.

Also, a lack of general management skills in work force acts as a barrier to leadership development as poor management often result in leaders not delegating work properly and results in assigning the wrong people for the wrong job and at the wrong time, this is as a result of being disorganised and not being able to organise schedules. This barrier could arise as a result of not having the proper management skills such as, having a positive attitude to work which influences employees to have such attitude and work is done and finished on time. By not be trustworthy and honest also affects management skills. By not been arrogant or imposing but be able to listen to other views of individuals and reach a compromise. A typical example of poor management skill is seen in autocratic management in which only the leaders views are taken as utmost and final leaving no chance for subordinates to take initiatives but the leader prefers to hand down instructions which amounts to bad mentoring. This practice is very common with most construction companies in Nigeria specifically with the organisation CTA & PARTNERS LTD where the company’s head felt other members of staff where not competent enough to do particular work and refused to allow staffs use their initiative which often resulted in projects not being completed on time and acquired more cost for the client and all involved in the project.

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However, when proper management skills are administered in an organisation, it can result in an efficient, productive team of happy workers whereas if not it can lead to a general feeling of resentment, bad atmosphere, loss of productivity and loss of team morale.

Further barriers also could be a lack of incentives in the industry such as not recognising and rewarding team members or employees who have made valuable contribution to the industry. As if this is done it motivates and inspires employees to take on more challenges to reach the organisations goal.

In addition to all the barriers mentioned above is personal/individual barrier imposed by employees on themselves. Issues surrounding this barrier are numerous such as the unwillingness to developed or coached and employees assume that they know all whereas they are lacking in a lot of leadership abilities and skills. Another clear case is the inability or unwillingness to try something new and not being open to innovation but prefer to carry on with the way things are run in the industry. Closely followed by this negative reaction to feedbacks or change and refuses to change to make the company operate better. Next is the issue of being threatened by others (especially those below in rank or subordinates) this causes envy to arise and victimisation through creating obstructions that would make it impossible for their potential leadership skills to manifest. Other issues are sometimes our need for power and recognition coupled with greed makes it impossible for leadership skills to be developed properly.

In conclusion, having identified the barriers and issues surrounding leadership and leadership development, in other to resolve these issues, it is essential for leadership programmes to include education and training particularly in communication skills and general management training so that individuals can harness their leadership skills.

A conclusion reached from the research survey was that recognition of effective and successful leaders within the industry would help to promote leadership and inspire others and these leaders could serve as mentors to the younger generation.

Also, the perceived organisational culture of industry has to change so barriers which prevent opportunities for people to show leadership potential are removed and the industry is better organised and co-ordinated improving the working culture of the industry. Strategies for identifying potential leaders should also be in cooperated into organisations if the industry is to develop leaders. Another critical issue is addressing the shortage of skills in the industry; this can be remedied by making sure the industry strives to retain its skilled workforce, employing graduates and offering the appropriate professional development to achieve their potential for leadership management careers in construction and continuous training to ensure employees are competent enough to do the job.

All these factors if addressed will provide a level ground for leadership potential to be developed in the construction industry


Gale, A.W (1992), “The construction industry’s male culture must feminize if conflict is to be reduced: the role of education as a gatekeeper to male construction industry”, in Fenn, P., Gameson, R. (Eds), Construction Conflict Management and Resolution, E. & F.N. Spon, London.

Harvey, R.C, Ashworth, A (1993), The Construction Industry of Great Britain, Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford.

Philip, S., (2003). Leadership (2nd Edition), Kogan Page Limited, London.

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