7 Qualities of Highly Successful Millennial Construction Leaders

You Are Living on Borrowed Time

By 2030, You’ll be Dead (Or Retired)

Hopefully, it’s the latter.

If you’re a Baby Boomer (age 53+), running a construction company, you know your time is limited.

The choices you make today have a massive impact on the future strength, growth, and profitability of your business.

As you think about the future, what is the biggest challenge you currently face that threatens your legacy?

The Economy

In 2017 construction is booming ($713B of new projects in the US).

But, you know there’ll be another downturn at some point.

You’ll be as prepared, or better prepared than you were in 2008, right?


New technology can be disruptive:

Analytics, Modularization, Prefabrication, Mobile Apps, Common Data Environments (don’t forget DRONES!)

Some of those impacts are over-hyped, some have real potential for the construction industry.

You should have people in place to analyze and experiment with the newest innovations, applying what works, and leaving your competition to chase their tails.


Processes change.

The construction industry is incorporating LEAN strategies. BIM and team orientated approaches are being more widely adopted.

Pick what works, discard what doesn’t, and continue to pursue building safe, speedy and high-quality projects.


By 2030, Millennials will be between 30 and 50 years old.  They will be 75% of the working population.

They will be running your company.

Read that again slowly.

Millennials will be running your company.

They will be responsible for continuing the legacy you’ve spent the last 30 years establishing.

That may terrify you.

Irresponsible is the first word (rapidly followed by entitled, narcissistic and lazy) you may think of when it comes to Millennials.

Hope is Not a Strategy

Stop chasing the next project, worrying about the latest trends, and hoping tomorrow’s leaders magically appear.

Economic conditions, technology innovations, and process changes mean nothing if you are not actively building a team that can lead your business for the next 30 years.

That’s exactly why you need to start, today, the hard work of identifying and developing the future leadership of your company.

Commit to spending 80% of your time over the next 12 months developing and implementing a disciplined Talent Development Plan (TDP).

Click here to download a free assessment and discover how effective you are at developing Millennial Leaders.

Despair is Not an Option

Looking at the talent pool, in your company, and in the industry,  you might wonder where you’ll find the next Chief Superintendent, COO, VP of Business Development, and CEO.

You may despair at times.

You say: “Millennials are lazy! They want six figures right out of college. They want to be running a division before they’ve even run a project profitably.”

There are Millennials like that, and if they are work for you, then you get what you tolerate.

The Good News

There are many examples of Millennials that defy generational stereotypes.

If know where to look, you’ll discover Millennials excelling at jobs that have much in common with construction.

Study the Successful

Studying what makes these Millennials successful will give you insights into what to look for as you put together your TDP.

You can take principles, adapt and apply them to your organization and attract, develop, and retain the best Millennial talent.

This will ensure you enjoy your retirement without the nagging sense of regret that you didn’t do everything in your power to build a lasting company and secure your legacy.

The rest of this article will look at one of the areas where you can find great Millennial leaders: The National Football League (NFL)

A Laboratory of Millennial Leadership

What Do the NFL and Construction Have in Common?

The NFL is an ultra-competitive, complex, high-pressure team orientated environment.

So is construction.

Successful Millennial Leaders

What do Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco have in common?

They are:

  • NFL Quarterbacks
  • Super Bowl Champions
  • Millennials

They are winners, becoming champions between 23-28 years old.

Field Generals

Quarterback is the most important position in the NFL.

They are responsible for leading their teams to execute the meticulous plans of the coaches, in a hectic environment, in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans.

In a recent article, Michael Lombardi (a former NFL General Manager) detailed what NFL teams look for when drafting a quarterback out of college.

He describes seven traits which I will translate into the construction environment.

Take them, adapt them to your company, and use them to consider when you are hiring or promoting Millennials into leadership roles.

Click here to download a free assessment and discover how effective you are at developing Millennial Leaders.

7 Qualities of Highly Successful (Millennial) Construction Leaders

  1. A Winner
  2. Emotionally Tough
  3. A Grinder
  4. A Learner
  5. A Lifer
  6. Charismatic
  7. Lovable

1. A Winner

The most successful quarterbacks are winners.

They win in a variety of ways, whether it’s a blowout, a nail biter, or a 4th quarter comeback.

Construction is All About Winning

You battle your competition to win projects. You compete against yourself (and sometimes others), as you collaborate with project partners, to execute projects on time, under budget, safely and excellently.

Unfortunately, sometimes you have to fight to get paid what’s rightly yours.

In your weekly project meetings, you track a variety of metrics that tell you if you are winning or losing.

You know if you’re making money, or if profit is fading.

When you are considering promoting a Millennial into a place of leadership ask yourself these questions:

  • How many times have they played from behind?
  • Have they been involved with a tough project that was behind schedule, over budget or afflicted by quality issues?
  • How many times have they built a relationship that has directly led you to win a project where you weren’t the first option at the beginning of the process?
  • How many times have they confronted a subcontractor or general contractor that is not fulfilling their contractual obligations?
  • How many times have they looked an owner in the eye and asked for what your companies rightly owned?
  • Have they been challenged with a variety of projects that give them a deep feel (not just intellectual understanding) of what it takes to succeed in your organization?

Bottom line: Have they demonstrated the ability to consistently win?

2. Emotionally Tough

If you’ve watch football (or any sport), you see highly skilled, trained and paid professionals fail all the time.

The best quarterbacks are not defined by their failures, but how they respond when they get sacked, a running back fumbles or a receiver drops a great pass.

If “life is suffering”, then getting a construction project completed is a microcosm of life.

Think back to the past week. How many tough conversations did you engage in? How many times did you have to work your way through a problem?

You Can’t Avoid Pain

Stuff happens in construction. There’s just too much going on to avoid difficulties and challenges.

Again, think about the Millennials in your organization and how they respond when things go badly:

  • Do they blow up at their teammates, project partners or customers?
  • Do they run away, hiding behind an email, hoping a paper trail will save them
  • Do they waffle? Stuck between decisions, afraid to make a call?
  • Are they emotionally tough, calm under pressure, willing to work the problem
  • Are they positively humble? Do they admit when they are wrong, or do they descend into self-pity and blaming others?

Do they live by George Patton’s words?

“A good plan violently executed today is far better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”

3. A Grinder

NFL quarterbacks work hard. They don’t just show up on game day. Every day is strictly scheduled and filled with film study, physical training, and game preparation.

Construction is also hard work.

No Flex-Time from March through November

Leaders must be willing to start early, stay late, and fully dedicate themselves to the success of every project.

Millennials love flex time.

There may be flex-time available in the winter. But from March to November, Spring to early Winter, they better be ready to grind out 10-12 hour days, week after week, if necessary.

Don’t promote anyone into a place of leadership who does not embrace that.

4. A Learner

In the NFL, the best quarterbacks never stop learning.  They know talent gets you hired, but repetitious study and practice ensure a successful career. They study themselves, their teammates, their opponents.

Intelligent, But Not Wise

George Orwell said it well:

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it…”

Millennials, for the most part, are intelligent.

What they lack is wisdom: experience in action

The only way to gain wisdom is to be committed to learning and then apply that learning in practical situations.

Charm Only Goes So Far

Think about someone you view as a potential leader.

  • Are they committed to learning?
  • Do they seek out opportunities to get educated on the processes that ensure a profitable project?
  • Are they up to date on the latest technological advances (not fads) that get buildings built better, faster and smarter?
  • Do they try and get by on charm alone? Or is there growing substance behind the smile?
  • Are they readers? Do they study great leaders? Good sources are the biographies of business, political and military leaders.
  • Do they make the same mistakes again and again, or are they learning and growing?

5. A Lifer

The career span of an NFL player is 3.3 years.

Many wash out because of a lack of talent or injuries.

Some just can’t sustain excellence over a long period of time. They don’t have the passion for the game necessary to enjoy a long career.

You Can’t Fake It

In construction, you can’t fake passion for long.

Construction is similar to a sport in that it requires a mixture of the mental and (to one extent or another) the physical.

It uniquely engages the individual, and excellence is only possible if there is complete commitment.

You are not going to be committed to winning, bouncing back from failure, working hard, or continuously learning if you don’t have a love for the industry.

Haste Makes Waste

Don’t be too hasty to promote a fresh face, but be willing to wait to see how committed to the industry and to the company culture.

Technical knowledge is not enough.

People skills are more important, and those skills must be honed through long practice and dedication.

Click here to download a free assessment and discover how effective you are at developing Millennial Leaders.

6. Charisma

Most successful NFL quarterbacks possess the “it” factor.

They have to if they are going to lead a group of people from diverse backgrounds in the demanding environment of professional sports.

They command the huddle on the field and the respect of their teammates in the locker room.

Rally the Troops

In construction, if someone is going to lead they have to have a degree of charisma.

They have to be able to “rally the troops”, inspiring in them a love of the “game”.

Genuine charisma (that positively impacts others) is rooted in four things: competence, confidence, clarity, and care


This can’t be faked.

It takes years of dedication to the craft of construction and the art of leadership to develop a level of competence that inspires others.


The truly competent have an easy confidence that produces calm in the midst of difficulty and challenge.

Look for confidence that doesn’t delight in its ability but rather in the positive impact that ability has on others.


When someone lacks competence and confidence it’s unlikely they’ll be able to lead with clarity.

But when someone is competent and confident they apply that to the problems the team faces, providing clear vision, direction, and instruction that enables others to excel.


Construction is all about people, relationships, and communication.

No matter how competent and confident someone is, never put them in a place of leadership if they don’t care about people.

To care about others is to be willing to apply all skill and knowledge for their benefit.

It means having a laser focus on the care of employees and the satisfaction of the client.

7. Loveable

How many times have you seen a teammate embrace a quarterback after a dramatic victory and say “I love you man!”

If someone is a winner, emotionally tough, a grinder, a learner, a lifer, and charismatic they will be loveable.

They will inspire and deserve the affection and commitment of others.

Don’t Trust Yourself

Don’t trust yourself to know whether someone you have targeted for a place of leadership is beloved of the people they work with.

You have to ask their colleagues, direct reports, bosses, and even outside sources.

  • They may act one way with you, but behave another way with others.
  • They may just work hard when you’re around.
  • They may berate their teammates behind your back.
  • They may be “expert delegators” and avoid their fair share of the work.

Whatever the case, you owe it to yourself, your company and your legacy to do the hard work necessary to find out the truth about someone before you promote them into a place of higher authority.

Are You a “Winning Franchise”?

Sustained excellence in any field is very difficult.

Construction is no exception.

One of the characteristics of NFL teams that succeed is their key leader, the quarterback, is excellent.

In construction, you need to develop your key leaders, and as I said at the beginning of the article, those leaders will be Millennials.

Take a Short Assessment

Click the button below to download the free “Millennial Construction Leaders Assessment”

In less than five minutes, you’ll answer 8 simple questions and gain clear insight into how prepared you are for the future.

If own or lead a construction company, contact me (eric@ericanderton.com) if you have any questions.

I’ve worked with the leadership teams of construction companies for over a decade helping them develop leaders and impact profit.

I have 20 years of experience mentoring Millennials.

I know what makes them tick, and what you can do to incorporate them into your leadership plans and secure your future.

Thanks for reading this article. Please share it with other construction leaders.

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