A group of distinguished leaders from the design and construction industry, all of them Texas A&M former students, recently designed a supplemental curriculum to help aspiring College of Architecture students become tomorrow’s industry leaders.
Introduced this fall, the new Minor in Leadership in the Design and Construction Professions is structured around eight leadership elements: character, competence, communication, collaboration, creativity, courage, competition and community.
“The capacity to lead and to inspire is what defines career success, and the lessons of leadership need to be learned early,” said Harold Adams ’61, chairman emeritus of RTKL, one of the world’s foremost design and construction firms, a 2011 Texas A&M Distinguished Alumnus, and one of the new leadership minor’s esteemed architects.
Open to students who have completed at least 30 hours in any of the College of Architecture’s undergraduate degree programs, the minor requires 15 credit hours, including three one-hour seminars created exclusively for the minor and four of any three-hour classes incorporating leadership principles and offered in the college.
In addition to lectures from industry experts, seminar sessions include group activities designed to help students develop a leadership style, inspire leadership in others, and communicate a vision and purpose within an organization.
Students pursuing the minor are also asked to complete the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a personality test that indicates the psychological preferences people use to perceive the world and make decisions.
“Part of leadership is understanding yourself,” said Larry Fickel, a senior lecturer in the construction science department who leads some of the minor’s leadership seminars.
Addressing the first cadre of students at one such seminar, Jim Thompson ’68, another of the leadership minor’s accomplished authors, extolled the virtues of character, a major part, he said, of doing business successfully in the design and construction industry. A Texas A&M Distinguished Alumnus and president of the Dallas-based general contracting company bearing his name, Thompson focused on trustworthiness, an attribute that, he said, can distinguish a company from its competitors.
“What separates us from the other contractors?” he asked the prospective leaders. “Is it experience? No, we’ve all got plenty of it. Is it expertise? No, my competitors are darn good builders and they all know what they’re doing. The difference,” he said, “is our ability to talk about our principles and values and how we apply them in our projects, especially when we encounter adversity. When companies hire us, it’s because they believe we are trustworthy.”
“When they realize,” he continued, “we have an army of subcontractors and past clients who trust us, that we’ve got character in addition to competence, then we don’t have to be the smartest or the most talented… the one with the most character almost always wins.
Joining Adams and Thompson as a key collaborator in leadership minor’s development was William Peel ’74, a College of Architecture Outstanding Alumnus and executive vice president and chief development officer for Tellepsen, a Houston-based construction company with more than 100 years of service. The former students worked closely on the with faculty from the college’s four departments to assure that the lessons offered are relevant and beneficial to all of the disciplines taught at the college.
The minor was developed as a result of a recurring question in advisory meetings engaging the former students with college administrators and faculty, said Thompson, “What can we do better?”
The answer, he continued, focused on enhancing attributes “the design and construction industry not only needs, but demands this from its employees — excellent communication skills, good personal behavior based on solid principles and values, and the motivation to influence others through positive leadership.”
In preparing students for industry careers, the minor, he said, offers students an opportunity to learn and develop principles and practices for leading.
Students seeking more information on the Minor in Leadership in the Design and Construction Professions should contact their academic advisor. A new cadre of leadership minors will be launched in fall 2017.