As professionals largely responsible for the design of the built environment, I believe architects hold a responsibility to be engaged in the communities they live, work, and design in. As those typically assigned to lead teams of other designers and engineers in the design process, it seems a natural fit for architects to take on positions of leadership in other venues. I am not so optimistic as to think all architects are natural leaders. However, I do think that many of the qualities that attract certain people to become architects (the desire to create things for people, and to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public) are also qualities that can make great leaders.
Leadership by definition cannot grow in a vacuum. It is not enough for a person to call themself a leader just because they have a vision for the future that they want others to follow. Leadership requires the ability to listen and to understand what others need. It is not effective to have a vision if no one else understands it or believes in it, thus leadership often requires the ability to leave one’s motives at the door and build a consensus.
Community and civic leadership are especially important for architects who have been frequently accused of naval gazing. As a profession, we frequently come together to discuss how the public perceives (or doesn't perceive) the value of the architect. If we each dedicated that time instead to working with non-architects on issues that impact all members in our communities, the conversation of relevancy would probably resolve itself.
For all of these reasons, events like the AIA Leadership Institute are important. This is not an event for architects to come together and discuss problems in the profession. This is a day for all who desire to use their professional skills to make a broader impact in their communities, jobs, and the greater building industry, to share with each other ways to become more effective.
Leadership is so many things, but the most effective leaders are those who never believe they have learned all they need to know. It is important for those who identify as leaders or who would like to be leaders to learn from each other's experiences. Whether you are just beginning your leadership journey, or you are a seasoned leader, let's grow together at #AIALI15.