Murphy Bros.
Big50 2007

Leadership is learned and refined consciously over time. But, that being said, I would identify those with leadership qualities as those on staff who:

  • Earn the respect of others by demonstrating consistency and follow-through;
  • Are consistent in conversation and opinion with everyone;
  • Demonstrate good judgment and common sense when making decisions;
  • Are approachable by others to share their opinions; and
  • Understand that they are not perfect but are striving to get better.

Landis Construction
Washington, D.C.
Big50 2005

It's easier to look for leadership qualities in those who have been working for you awhile, those who have gotten to know and understand you and how you work.

In our business, good leaders have not only client skills, but people skills within the organization as well. It's imperative that co-workers respect a leader and that the leader works well with other people. It's also important that they have an eye for the bottom line.

Those who will be leaders also must have the ability to say, “We have a problem; what can we do about it?” and not sweep things under the carpet. Leaders will find the answers and move forward with it and develop consensus.

At Landis Construction, as employees accomplish their jobs, we give them bigger jobs and more difficult clients. We're testing them all the time at every level.

Finally, as an owner, you have to be open to hearing what's going on — good and bad — in the organization to encourage people's leadership skills.

Morey Construction
Signal, Calif.
Big50 2005

We look to see whether a potential leader changes his or her point of view — from what they do currently, to how they can improve what they do in the future. We couple that with how they interact with others to help them improve also.

Personality does have a part in a person's leadership potential, but the attitude of improving self and helping others do the same shows up in personal action and the ability to have others follow their example.

There must be determination to be successful as a leader, but you must not be domineering in your interaction with other team members.

When someone asks questions during the interview process with our company, and they ask about the company's future and what the outlook for growth is, this is a good indicator for us of potential leadership abilities. Commitment to the vision of what the company stands for is the foundation for any future leader in our company.

The Alexander Group
Kensington, Md.
Big50 1993

It takes a while to identify who has strong leadership qualities. The number one and two qualities I look for are integrity and decisiveness. These people are also able to admit when they goofed, apologize, fix it, and move on.

As a business owner, you have to provide staff with the opportunity to take responsibility for something and give them the tools to accomplish the goal, i.e., leaders want to take responsibility — they will ask for more — so I look to see if someone is seeking more responsibility.

Leaders lead by example, so I look for how my staff interact with their co-workers and our support network (trade contractors, vendors, etc.). Do they get buy-in, do coworkers like supporting them and following their lead? The results are seen in the production efficiency and the morale of those around them.

The McAdams Co.
Kirkland, Wash.
Big50 1989

Leaders need many things, but most of all they need followers. I know that sounds simplistic, but the people who can obtain performance without threats, fear, or manipulation stand out in any crowd. These are the individuals who consistently deliver results while offering credit to “their people.” We love them!