Emerging Leaders



Stephen Parker , AIA

Stephen Parker, AIA













As we gear up for AIALI’16 we take a look at how model leadership programs develop leaders.  Stephen Parker highlights the Emerging Leaders Program at SmithGroupJJR.

There are numerous leadership programs at firms large and small, especially as the firm leadership of the present sees their future in the young men and women they employ. At SmithGroupJJR, the Emerging Leaders Program lays out a plan for the firm’s future by forging a path forward for aspiring leaders. 

At SmithGroupJJR, the nation’s oldest, independent architecture and engineering firm, this two-year program is intended to better train and equip the next generation of leaders from within the firm’s ranks. Applicants are associate level (Architect 3, Engineer 3, Planner 3, etc) or higher and must seek the support of their office leadership. This is intended so that applicants can take the lead in their own future and gain support for the path they chose. The program links up the 15 selected candidates with mentors of their choosing, either from within their office, practice, discipline or beyond if they choose. There are three sessions per year that are hosted at different offices across the country, which helps the cohort of candidates broaden their network while forging bonds with one another. This is one of the best benefits of the program according to Brenna Costello, AIA,ACHA, EDAC, principal and medical planner at SmithGroupJJR. 

"Not only does the program introduce you to motivated colleagues across the company (each with such diverse strengths), it really opens your eyes to personal and team growth!  There is a confidence and camaraderie built among the group that you feel you could call each classmate for answers in the profession”.   

“The program fosters a safe space to discuss challenges among peers in a unique environment not always possible in the midst of project deadlines,” according to Diane Syer, Director of Talent Development at SmithGroupJJR.  

The program’s first year dives into business acumen, providing a deeper understanding of not only how a project is profitable, but how financial information is used to guide decision making at the studio, office and firm levels. The second year encompasses learning to lead, beginning with a thorough self-assessment and greater self-awareness of how one leads. Knowing one’s strengths and those of others is one of the basics of team building. This broadens into how to lead others, develop client relationships and ultimately, how to lead the firm. Participants develop emotional intelligence and strategic leadership skills.  

A hybrid, advanced path exists for established leaders who already have a firm grasp on business acumen and proven leadership at some scale. In the future, the Emerging Leaders Program will further diversify from a management-focused leadership program to include design and technical leadership. As leaders develop with differing passions and capacities in the diverse professions the firm represents, this will help develop a leadership culture throughout the company. 

In the final year of the program, candidates complete a capstone project, modeled on the 100 Day Challenge. They work in teams, paired with an executive sponsor within the firm, to help them research a strategic initiative and prepare recommendations to present to the Board of Directors. In the same manner that the firm has invested in their future, candidates are investing in the future of the firm.

Early bird rates end 9/19!

Early bird rates end Monday! 
The premiere one-day leadership training for architects is just around the corner. Take advantage of early bird savings and join us for Leadership Institute 2016. It’s your opportunity to develop key leadership skills and network with peers and industry leaders. 

Sponsor a leader on the rise from your firm to attend before prices go up!

4 Reasons to attend:
- You'll learn best practices in leadership, design, and practice.
- You'll join a network of local and industry leaders who are changing the leadership dialogue.
- You'll hear a dynamic keynote by Latent Design's Katherine Darnstadt, AIA, LEED BD+C.
- You'll earn up to 7 LUs for attending.

Hosted in Washington, DC, this event will also be broadcast live to four regional venues. Or attend virtually from any location. 

Register by September 19 for early bird savings!

Brought to you by the AIA Center for Civic Leadership and sponsored by the AIA College of Fellows and Strogoff Consulting.


The AIA Center for Civic Leadership is pleased to announce our final #AIALi16 Keynote Speaker Roselinde Torres. As a recognized thought provoking expert on Leadership, she has been featured in a variety of forums including TED where her talk has been viewed in excess of 3 Million times. 

In a 21st century world, which is more global, digitally enabled, and transparent, with faster speeds of information flow and innovation, and where nothing big gets done without some kind of a complex matrix, relying on traditional development practices will stunt your growth as a leader.” - Roselinde Torres, Senior Partner and Managing Director of The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) based in New York City.

Roselinde’s research is founded on the premise that the 21st century will be marked not just by great individual leaders, but by great leadership teams. Such teams will be led by a steward who demonstrates curiosity about trends, is empathic, has an appreciation for other points of view, and focuses on multiplicative value.

As a senior leader in the People and Organization Practice Area, Roselinde leads BCG’s CEO Advisory in North America having advised over 200 CEOs across industry sectors and markets. In 2014, she received the Woman Leaders in Consulting Award from Consulting Magazine for exceptional leadership within the firm and industry and for her expertise on the topic of Leadership. 

Registration is LIVE! Early bird closes 9/19!

AIALI16 Facilitators Announced

The AIA Center for Civic Leadership is proud to announce Michael Strogoff, FAIA and Stephen Epstein of Strogoff Consulting as Plenary Workshop Facilitators for the AIA Leadership Institute 2016. Michael and Stephen will join Co-Chairs Michelle Stotz, Assoc. AIA and Jamie Crawley, AIA as they lead the five Regional Venues in this unique workshop presentation. Together the five locations: Dallas, Charleston, Indianapolis, San Francisco, and Washington, DC will collaborate while taking a deep dive into the workbook, "Living Your Life as a Leader". 

Michael Strogoff, FAIA is the managing principal of an architecture firm, a frequent speaker on practice management issues, Advisory Group Chair of AIA's Practice Management Knowledge Community, and advisor to design professionals nationwide. Stephen Epstein’s career spans 25 years with small, medium, and large firms providing strategic leadership; serving as mentor and coach to senior, intermediate, and emerging professionals; and providing training seminars related to attracting and retaining talent, leadership, financial accountability, project management, and risk management.

Read their full bios by visiting our speaker page.

Cleveland, After the Circus has Left Town…





Judson A. Kline,  FAIA

Judson A. Kline, FAIA

Wow, what a start to the summer for the city of Cleveland. First, the Cavaliers pull off the upset of the year and come from behind to capture the National Basketball Championship sparking a celebration of epic proportion. Over one million people shared the moment. Then, the Republican Convention rolled into town for another world stage appearance for the city.   Now that both of these events have come and gone, what is the future for the city and how might that be impacted by the leadership of architects in the community?

While there were many projects, completed prior to the convention, many more were put on hold to not be disruptive during the city’s moment in the national limelight. With the cameras and press now gone, many of the projects held back are getting underway. Local firms are busy catching up. As a result, the work load continues to be demanding. However, the real questions are: what will the future look like, what has been learned from the experience and how can architects become the leaders needed in Northeast Ohio?

With a large number of major corporate CEO’s, foreign and national journalists in Cleveland, the city was able to show off its character to encourage a second look in future consideration for conferences, conventions and business opportunities. These two major events have been catalysts for economic and social change within the community. Architects can not only benefit from the increase in local economic activity, but also can learn the role of leadership they can have in shaping the discussion about the issues facing the community.

With a running start as a result of the attention focused on the quality and character of Greater Cleveland, the community has shaken off its former reputation as the burning river city. It is now getting many second looks for new investment. Architects need to share in this new found identity and value. The best way to accomplish this objective is by taking positions of leadership in the form of appointed and elected officials being impactful in bringing the knowledge and experience of design professionals to their community. Architects can be catalysts for civic initiatives and must prepare themselves to be the leaders communities require.

The AIA’s Center for Civic Leadership is the resource to support architects in the effort to pursue positions in community governance. By learning the lessons provided by the experience of the championship and national convention while recognizing the resources needed to make a difference and where to find them, architects can truly be the change makers needed in the community.

On Radical Candor™ in the Workplace

Some time ago, I came across an article highlight of a video entitled Radical Candor — The Surprising Secret to Being a Good Boss.  It still resonates with me for identifying candidness and honesty as important pieces of leadership that are often lacking in our field.  In the video, Kim Scott, former classmate and colleague of Sheryl Sandberg of Lean In and Google fame, describes her theory on management-provided guidance: how to give, receive, and encourage it. She makes an important distinction between guidance and criticism, highlighting a type of guidance she coined “radical candor” that is used to create honest and open workplaces that thrive.

Scott gives an example from her past experience with Google in which Sandberg pulled her aside following an important and successful presentation meeting. Sandberg attempted to express her concern on Scott’s repeated use of “um” during her presentation. Scott brushed the comment off and rejected the idea of a speaking coach provided by the company. Finally, Sandberg said, “You know, Kim, I can tell I'm not really getting through to you. I'm going to have to be clearer here. When you say ‘um’ every third word, it makes you sound stupid.”

So often, our culture instructs us to be ‘nice’, which we often interpret as only praising one another, and perceiving criticism of any kind as impolite or worse—malevolent. Scott’s example clearly illustrates why radical candor is important. Sandberg had already showed Scott that she cared personally for her in various ways throughout their relationship, which made her criticism easier to stomach.

Scott has developed a handy graphic of X and Y axes, with X being the “willing to piss people off” axis and Y being the “give a damn” axis. In this chart, the top right quadrant is where bosses should live – in the magical combination of both caring personally and challenging directly. In this quadrant, caring for employees and illustrating that softens the blow of criticisms.

A quote from a movie I have seen more times than I’d like to admit to goes: “Attitude reflects leadership.” Let’s face it; engaging with one another can be challenging, and the employee-employer relationship is filled with uncomfortable conversations. But just think about the alternatives. Burying our heads in the sand fosters an environment of insecurity, politics, and manipulation that can be difficult to un-learn. Leaders must push for open environments allowing employees to make mistakes and, more importantly to learn from them through honest conversations expressed in humility. A more simplistic illustration highlighting the same principle: I have food in my teeth, I want to know – please tell me!

Terran Wilson,  Assoc. AIA

Terran Wilson, Assoc. AIA


F. Michael Ayles, AIA, NCARB

F. Michael Ayles, AIA, NCARB

From July 13-15, the AIA brought together about 150 architecture students, emerging professionals, and practitioners to Washington, D.C., for the inaugural SpeakUp event, an intense 2½ day workshop and mock campaign challenge to teach legislative advocacy regarding issues related to architecture and the built environment. Ultimately, this new event was an interactive “part two” to AIA’s annual Grassroots Conference – “part one” of which was held in February in Detroit, and covered government policy and legislation topics.

When members of the Center for Civic Leadership (CCL) heard about SpeakUp in late 2015, we debated our participation in the event as we weren’t quite sure how there might be mutual benefit with our involvement. It was clear after I attended how beneficial this new format and initiative could be for AIA members in the future as “Citizen Architects”, a role that the CCL has promoted and encouraged since its existence.  Also in attendance from the CCL were James Yankopoulos and Eric Pempus, and I imagine they would have the same reaction to the event.

It certainly helped that just prior to SpeakUp was the Knowledge Leadership Assembly, where leaders from over 20 knowledge communities and advocacy groups (including the CCL) met to share knowledge, best practices, and leverage collaboration between groups to create extraordinary resources for AIA members. With several CCL members and AIA staff liaisons in attendance, an entire morning was dedicated meeting to discuss, strategize, and plan the next six months of the CCL’s efforts … and beyond. At the conclusion of this meeting, there was a fantastic one-on-one discussion with Russ Davidson, FAIA (current AIA President) and Thomas Vonier, FAIA (2017 AIA President) – it is clear that we are all on the same page about ‘architects as leaders’.

So … back to SpeakUp. Although many attendees met with their House and Senate representatives to discuss the critical AIA issues, nearly all had the opportunity during the event to use their existing, or newly-learned, skills to work as a team of 30-35 to develop a legislative campaign for a hypothetical green-schools bill that would make schools 50% more efficient than current code.  Participants were divided into four teams, each representing a different region of the country, and had to create a campaign to get their local representatives to vote in support of the new bill.

As attendees planned their team campaign periodically throughout the event, educational workshop sessions were held revolving around five key elements of a successful campaign and/or advocacy effort – 1) building a strong legislative strategy, 2) message development and communications, 3) forming allies and coalitions, 4) using elections and political action committees, and 5) organizational growth.  These workshops were led by key AIA Advocacy staff, AIA local chapter leaders, state senators, public affairs and government relations executives, and legislative attorneys – no shortage of advocacy expertise!

One of the more interesting discussions occurred at a 90-minute breakfast session of roundtable and report back discussions focused on what key issues and challenges participants and their components faced regarding 1) unstaffed components, 2) getting more students involved with advocacy, 3) advocating in “blue” or “red” states, 4) policy issues, and 5) how to get more members engaged in politics when many are frustrated with the process. Needless to say, I selected to participate in that last topic and I’m happy to report that answers shared among the event attendees included more leadership training programs, mentor pairing (AIA member to legislator), and getting more AIA members to win local elections and actively seek/share their experiences. The session’s final collective answer to the phrase “By 2025, the AIA’s advocacy efforts have led to ____” was for “architects to be recognized as leaders!”

On the last morning of SpeakUp, the four teams presented their developed campaign plans for review by a jury comprised of the AIA’s chief of staff, the managing partner of a government relations firm, a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly, the president of a presentation consulting firm, and the senior director of engagement for the Democracy Initiative. James Yankopoulos and I were both on the same campaign team and were selected to speak as part of our team presentation – which was quite an honor when you look at the government affair and advocacy firepower in the room. Though we did not win “best in show”, the knowledge that was gained by the 150 attendees was impressive.

For my final thoughts of SpeakUp, I must commend the AIA Advocacy staff in creating such an intense, organized, and educational event. Though I initially wondered why I attended and how I could take back what I learned locally to my chapter, I seemed to learn more about myself as a local elected official. I also realize that I have many years left as an AIA member and can hopefully use my newfound understanding of the issues behind the scenes of a legislative campaign … before I need to attend SpeakUp again and get re-trained. That said, I truly hope SpeakUp continues for many years to come – it is outstanding that 150 AIA members and staff gained this knowledge, but we need hundreds more to participate and get involved in their local communities.

And hopefully AIA Leadership Institute 2016 will be the inspiration needed to get AIA members involved in the next SpeakUp!


The AIA Leadership Institute is pleased to announce Charleston joins the 2016 program as a Regional Venue serving the Southeastern region of the United States. Charleston is the fifth and final venue of the 2016 program, and will complete the list of AIA Components represented.

Updates on regional speakers, plenary content, and more to go live in the upcoming months. Please stay tuned for announcements as we gear up for this November 18 event.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn using #AIALi16!

Conventional Wisdom Has a Place


For years I have read also sorts of things about leadership. Some by great management gurus, the likes of Peter Drucker and Tom Peters, and some in journals like the Harvard Business Review and Forbes. While usually interesting, most seem to expound on conventional wisdom. Much of what they tell you is general in nature, and you probably already know. What’s more, very little is focused on architects.

Some years ago, I was doing research on the Myers-Briggs personality test and came across a study by Robert Gaarder that was about architects. He gave the tests to 100 architects with some fascinating results. He discovered that more than half of architects were either ENTJs (31%) or INTJs (20%) in the Myers-Briggs personality type scale. This compares to just 1.8% of ENTJs and 2.1% for INTJs in the entire population.

For those not familiar with the test, the letters stand for personality traits. ENTJ represents extraversion, intuition, thinking, and judging, and INTJ represents introversion, intuition,thinking, and judging,

Both E’s and I’s are natural born leaders. So most architects are suited for this role. However, there is a negative side to these personality types that can make an architect a bad leader rather than a good one. They sometimes have difficulties with interpersonal skills with some weaknesses in relating to other people or in confiding in them. NTJ’s are extremely logical, which leads to brutally honest communication. They become impatient with others due to a natural hatred of stupidity and inefficiency. They don’t realize that their brutal honesty can hurt people until it’s too late.

ENTJ’s are great organizers. However, they might fail to support the organization’s cause, sometimes making people question why they are following the ENTJ in the first place. Due to ENTJ’s natural assertiveness, it’s nothing for them to put ground rules in place, leaving everybody else to wonder what’s going. “There’s an arrogance about an ENTJ, often,” Gaarder observes. “It’s like, ‘Well, I know what’s best for this client’.”

INTJ’s who become leaders would rather stay in the background. Connecting with others in the workplace is not easy for them. Their preference is to work alone and don’t often try to build personal relationships. They have an independent nature that leads others to believe that they are uninterested in ideas other than their own.

So what does all this have to do with conventional wisdom? Well if we first recognize who we are, we can than open our eyes and ears to what experts tell us about what it takes to be a leader. It’s than our job to work on those traits that get in the way of our being an effective.

That may sound easy but it’s not. As a lifelong ENTJ, I have spent my entire career trying to tame my aggressive nature. It has often gotten in my way on my never ending search for success.

Too bad the Leadership Institute did not exist when I was younger. The programs that are provided are just what I needed to get to where I wanted to go. You all will be well served if you are able to attend. The agenda is focused on those of you looking to lead, in your firm, your profession, your community, and your government.

One final bit of advice on becoming a leader that the conventional wisdom gurus don’t talk about. You would be well served to find yourself a “Rabbi”. Not to be confused with the religious one, this person will mentor and give advice, but will also grease the skids for you to get good assignments and early promotions. With a sufficiently powerful rabbi, an individual can do almost anything bad and still have a good career.

1. ENTJ Personality Type

2. INTJ Personality Type
3. ENTJ Stressors

David J. Brotman,    FAIA Architect       

David J. Brotman, FAIA



1. ENTJ personality type

1. ENTJ personality type

2. INTJ personality type           

2. INTJ personality type




3. ENTJ Stressors

3. ENTJ Stressors


Photo Credit: Ted.com via Creative Commons (CC) license .

Photo Credit: Ted.com via Creative Commons (CC) license.

Here’s a look at a resource we find useful to leaders in our industry.  It’s one of the many that have caught our eye.  What resources do you use to expand your knowledge? Share your resources with us!


The AIA Leadership Institute blog has a selection of links to leadership focused TED talks. There are presentations that last not more than fifteen minutes, and each is a treasure trove of ideas.  

As most of you know, TED is a global phenomenon of ideas sharing that started as a conference on technology, entertainment and design. Communities around the world hold TED events and the talks are contributed to an internet database dedicated to ever greater access to ideas, for free. It’s a worthy pursuit to add a few TED talks to your repertoire of learning and entertainment, just as you may do with a newspaper, social media site or television series. 

One of these thought-provoking TED talks is “How to Manage for Collective Creativity”, a talk by Linda Hill.  Hill is a Harvard professor that has studied creative companies and developed tools and tactics for any organization to have healthy and robust creativity. 

In discussing the creative process at Pixar, Hill states that “No solo genius, no flash of inspiration makes those movies.” A three-second clip of a Pixar film may take months to refine, with a team of hundreds. 

“At the heart of innovation is a paradox. You have to release the talents and innovations of many people.” She expresses findings that innovation occurs in three major categories of creativity. She recognizes design thinking and its interesting combination of scientific method and the artistic process. Learning through experimentation. She talks about being the “social” architect – “creating space where people are willing and able to share and combine their talents and passions.” 

Another jewel is a quick, three-minute talk called “How to Start a Movement” by Derek Sivers.  Sivers explains that in a certain instance of leadership, the first follower becomes the more influential leader. “The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader.” Then he observes that as more people join a movement, it’s less risky. As a leader, you must nurture the followers so that it’s clearly about the movement and not you. Encourage others to follow by being a follower yourself. There is an interesting twist to this talk, which you should experience for yourself. 

While there are many architects featured in TED talks, their presentations tend to focus on design process and innovation.  It’s arguable that the act of public speaking is a form of leadership, but it’s time for architects to speak about our collaborative and inspiring processes we use every day. Let’s get inspired by the leadership TED talks and make your next conversation about leadership.

You can check out the TED talks on our blog here.






Ian Merker , AIA LEED AP BD+C Architect

Ian Merker, AIA LEED AP BD+C


The AIA Leadership Institute is pleased to announce Indianapolis joins the 2016 program as the Regional Venue for the Midwestern states. Indianapolis is the fourth AIA Component to join this year's planning team, and will complement the cross continental locations of Dallas, TX; San Francisco, CA; and Washington, DC.

Updates on regional speakers, plenary content, and more to go live in the upcoming months. Please stay tuned for announcements as we gear up for this November event.

You can get all the latest on updates from AIALi16 via TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn using #AIALi16!


The AIA Center for Civic Leadership is excited to announce Katherine Darnstadt, AIA, LEED AP BD+C as a keynote speaker of the AIA Leadership Institute. Katherine is the founder and principal of Latent Design, a progressive architecture and urban design firm with a commitment to community development through a strategy of define, design, deploy. The firms offers innovative design solutions to those in resource and budget limited environments by leveraging local assets to generate project opportunities. Since founding her practice in 2010, Katherine and her firm have been published, exhibited and featured widely, most notably at the International Venice Biennale, Core 77 Design Awards, Architizer A+ Awards, Chicago Ideas Week, NPR, as the 2013 American Institute of Architects Young Architects Honor Award winner and Crain’s Chicago 40 Under 40. She teaches at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Northwestern University.


The AIA Leadership Institute is pleased to announce that we will be heading west in 2016 to San Francisco, California. AIA California Council and the AIACC Academy for Emerging Professionals will inspire leadership ideas and dialogue in this booming city by the Bay. 

Updates on regional speakers, plenary content, and more to go live in the upcoming months. Please stay tuned for announcements as we gear up for this November event.

You can get all the latest on updates from AIALi16 via TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn using #AIALi16!


We know you've been patiently waiting to find out where the AIA Leadership Institute will be heading this year, so we're excited to announce AIALi16 will be making its way back to the Lone Star State - this time, in the great city of Dallas! We had such a great time in San Antonio last year, that we cannot wait to collaborate with the Texas Society of Architects again in 2016. Many thanks to AIA Dallas for hosting! 

In the coming months we'll be bringing you more updates on regional speakers, plenary content, and how you can join in the conversation. Our next Regional Venue will be announced soon, too - will it be your city?

Stay tuned for more updates on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn, and tell us where you'll be tuning in for #AIALi16!


The AIA Center for Civic Leadership is excited to announce Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA as the 2016 Honorary Chair of the AIA Leadership Institute. Helene joins the core planning team for a second year to offer her guidance and support in strengthening this growing national program. Her service as the 2014 National President of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) was instrumental in shaping the program’s initial launch. The inaugural year attracted 300 participants in five different US locations.


The Young Architects Forum invited the AIA Center for Civic Leadership to participate in their April release of YAF Connection, an issue focused on exploring architects who are in or are pursuing public office through election or appointment. As many of our committee leaders have dedicated their careers to this specific path of public service, over 10 AIA CCL team members contributed their ideas to this issue, as well as past speakers and allied partners who were involved in shaping the 2015 AIA Leadership Institute. Be sure to check out the following articles, which can be read online at 14.02 YAF Connection:

  • Leadership Junkies
  • The Importance of Architects as Public Sector Leaders
  • Evolving the NDSA
  • Answering Detroit's Call of Duty
  • Citizen Architects
  • Architects as Catalysts for Civic Initiative
  • A Young Architect's Guide to Convention
  • Becoming a Chief Urban Designer
  • Senator Chris Widener, FAIA on State Leadership
  • An Architect Ventures into Politics
  • The Architect of the Capitol