Creating deeper loyalty, higher morale, and crews that will sacrifice for you can’t be bought. These values can only be earned.

Introducing the facade marked a major shift in ancient architecture. When the Greeks built something, they used quality materials throughout their structures. Later, the Romans used less expensive materials but covered the face of a building with a thin veneer of costly materials. You can guess which structures stood the test of time and which ones didn’t.

These are exciting times to be involved in concrete. Observing our industry’s innovations and opportunities, it’s clear we have a bright future. What’s hard not to miss either, is that we stay hungry for great leaders. To reach our fullest potential and satisfy that craving, we must prioritize leadership growth.

Each time I travel to teach about leadership, I feel privileged to interact with people who are eager to improve their leadership skills. Whether I’m sitting around a table teaching the key leadership team or standing in front of dozens of foremen, I’m reminded that concrete contractors and their companies rise or fall based on the quality of their leaders.

One principle that grows quality leaders is instilling within them the concept that authentic leaders develop their followers to their fullest potential. Some leaders respond with skepticism when I talk about the need for developing their followers, until they see that the concrete industry is bigger than their own crews.

Leadership isn’t simply about barking out orders to be obeyed; it is about increasing control in those we lead. Sharing our power doesn’t subtract from our authority; it actually multiplies our influence. When our followers are better developed, even to the point they are ready for leadership, we become more effective in accomplishing our goals of placing concrete and completing more projects on time.

Scaffolding for the Structure

Some people confuse the “scaffolding for the structure,” but we can’t afford to. We haven’t built anything by assembling scaffolding; we’ve merely allowed ourselves to reach new heights. Leadership is more about who you are on the inside than what you do. Too often, people think in the short-term, but who you are as a leader is more important than what you do because people follow a person not a paycheck. Concrete isn’t like a sport’s franchise, as we are all leading free agents who can come and go. Creating deeper loyalty, higher morale, and crews that will sacrifice for you can’t be bought. These values can only be earned.

How do we earn loyalty and morale, and why would our followers want to make sacrifices for us? When our leaders put their followers first. This is why leaders must invest their time in developing their followers. Drivers don’t lead well and they eventually drive their followers away, while quality leaders retain the satisfied followers they’ve developed.

Yesterday’s leaders might have used threats and intimidation to “drive” their workforce, but tomorrow’s must be out front using persuasion and inspiration to motivate their people. Today’s real leaders already know that earning respect, instead of demanding it, works the best for bringing out a crew’s fullest potential and cooperation.

Followers rarely surpass their leaders in personal growth. Therefore, we all need to ask ourselves, “Am I a better leader today than I was five years ago? Am I really growing as a leader?” If not, find out what you can do to grow because we who work in concrete are making the most important contributions to civilization. Will your leadership legacy be remembered as a facade or will it be able to stand the test of time?

Craig Cottongim is certified in conflict resolution and is a long-time concrete finisher who is also a writer and communicator. E-mail