TZL 1373 (web)



A singular leader, in place for all time, might not be the best model for your firm. Consider a different way, one that plans for transitions and accommodates change. Leadership transition as a way of life

I once worked at a firm where the namesake was the president and CEO. Let’s call him John. John was “the guy.” He made all the decisions. He was the driver of the firm from beginning to end. The advantage to this arrangement was that clients knew that when they were talking to John, they were talking to the person who could make things happen, had the most experience, and would make sure the firm performed for them.

Kevin Token

Of course, this is a familiar scenario in the AEC world, which has a long history of firms led by founders. The tradition continues to this day, as we see many firms started in the last few decades that still have founders in charge. The problem is, this approach has its limitations – including some that have become glaringly obvious during the current era of acquisitions that has some leaders looking for a way out. I’d like to share an alternative approach – one that I know from experience can work. Before I do, though, let’s look at some of the disadvantages to the traditional founder-leader approach. First, John might not be the best leader. John might be a visionary, or a great seller, but he can’t

possibly be the best at everything. No one is. So if John isn’t delegating his or her weaknesses to someone who has those strengths, the firm is suffering. Also, John can only do so much. If he wins some work, for example, he might turn his attention to doing the work and not pay attention to winning more work. So the firm doesn’t grow. This is a common malady in small firms. Most important perhaps, having John sit in the same seat for maybe 30 years limits others’ opportunity for growth. If the firm hires “superstars” or people with potential but doesn’t provide a path for growth, those people will learn

See KEVIN TOKEN, page 4


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