Je'Nen M. Chastain, Assoc. AIA, LEED GA  AIA Leadership Institute, Chair AIA Center for Civic Leadership, Vice Chair

Je'Nen M. Chastain, Assoc. AIA, LEED GA
AIA Leadership Institute, Chair
AIA Center for Civic Leadership, Vice Chair

The intersection of leadership and architecture is a big inspiration to me. And why not? Leadership and architecture naturally go hand in hand. From drawing a set of design documents, ensuring that a permit set is approved, setting a vision in place for a community, creating a practice, mentoring staff, negotiating with a client or contractor, joining a local community organization, advancing policies that shape our built environment, and bringing in new work – leadership is represented in almost every aspect of how we practice. 

My personal journey through this industry has included the unique opportunity to study leadership by observing and working in collaboration with some of our industry’s top tier talent. From my work with the AIA, ACSA, NAAB, NCARB, affiliate organizations like Architecture for Humanity, and award-winning design firms, I have experienced the many different approaches architects bring to the role of leader. Embedded in the development required to learn our trade, leadership is a significant aspect of practice that requires investment of focus and time. Demonstrated through the efforts of our Leadership Institute planning team who have interviewed and collected leadership stories from many individuals in our field, we have found that a leader emerges to find and share their true talents only after self-reflection and a willingness to learn and grow.

Architecture is caught in a moment of defining history. Not only are we rapidly transforming the way we practice to keep pace with changes in technology as a workforce, but we are also experiencing booming economic demand. The rules have changed, and the evolving role of the architect requires leadership more than ever. As trends continue to shift, we must be nimble and keep ahead of change. A well-known example includes client engagement, and the increasing pattern for expedited schedules, and complete on time, on budget, no exceptions buildings. At a larger scale, we see our cities growing and transforming through innovative new ideas that require visionary talent and discipline to shape. Without strong leaders at the helm to lead (not just manage) our firms, we miss business opportunities, struggle with project management, and lose employee engagement. Without architects serving as leaders and invested voices in our communities, we fumble in the public eye, and miss opportunities to lead positive and lasting policies that shape these new streetscapes, housing projects, and civic buildings.

Let's face the facts: 1. More architects and designers are needed to step into roles of leadership within our firms and communities.
2. Those who are already in leadership positions need to continue to develop their leadership skills so they can continue to mature in their role as leaders. 

As a group of national volunteers and diverse leaders from across the country, the AIA Center for Civic Leadership (CCL) believes so passionately in the advancement of leadership education as a key step toward the long-term viability of the industry, that the 2015 AIA Leadership Institute program is has been strategically designed as an accessible and open program for individuals at any point on their leadership journey. During this one day national event on Friday, October 23, 2015, we will make waves across time zones by bringing leaders together from across the AIA. Gathering as leaders in five home town communities, participants will engage directly in local training and meaningful conversations. This interactive model will empower our participants to think locally, while sharing ideas nationally. We will connect diverse leaders to collaborate while learning together, and discuss how we can have a greater impact on our firms, clients, and communities through our actions.

Learn more about our program by visiting our site. Register today, and join the discussion online @AIALeaders #AIALI15 #CitizenArchitect!