Contributor III

Building Excellent Leadership Skills in the Trades

Success in every sector requires strong leadership. Your ability to lead successfully can significantly impact your company's development, reputation and ROI, regardless of whether you oversee a team of professional tradespeople or manage a small business. Strong leadership abilities are crucial for creating a great work atmosphere, satisfying customers, and effectively managing teams and projects.



The following quote by US Naval Admiral William McRaven inspired this blog:


“If you want to change the world,
start off by making your bed."

US Naval Admiral. William H. McRaven, BJ '77,
Ninth commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command,
Texas Exes Life Member and Distinguished Alumnus.


On May 17, 2014, Admiral McRaven delivered a memorable speech at the university-wide commencement in Texas. UT News. 

That day, McRaven famously stated, "If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed." When applied to the trades, this straightforward advice from a US Navy SEAL gives good insights into leadership abilities comparable to those of a Navy SEAL. Using McRaven's speech as a backdrop, this article will explore useful methods for trade contractors to improve their leadership skills. I hope you find it as inspiring as I did.


Lead by Example

One of the most fundamental aspects of leadership is leading by example. As a contractor, your team looks up to you for guidance and inspiration. Show them you're willing to give your best, demonstrate integrity, and uphold high standards. When your team sees you giving your best, they are more likely to follow suit. This theme of leading by example aligns with the Admiral's advice. In the trades, successful leaders actively engage in the work, showcasing expertise and unwavering commitment. This hands-on approach not only garners respect among team members but also forms a robust foundation for effective leadership and trust. UT News.  

Establish Disciplined Work Practices

Being a stellar leader takes discipline. Show dedication by nailing appointments, rocking on-time meetings, and consistently acing deadlines. If you're wondering where to start, fear not! Start small—create healthy routines like exercising regularly and becoming an early bird. It might seem trivial, but it adds up.

Now, let's talk beds. Making your bed? Yep, it's a discipline thing. And, in the trades, leaders should sprinkle that orderliness in the workplace, too. Stick to the plan, meet those timelines, and keep things structured – that's the secret sauce for an effective leader! If you want to lead the pack and inspire others to join in, it's all about cultivating that discipline in your personal and professional life. In a society of optics, people gauge your leadership mojo by how on-point you are at work.


Attention to Detail

Influential leaders drive projects forward and inspire their teams to reach new heights. Admiral McRaven's emphasis on making a bed underscores the importance of attention to detail. In the trades, whether it's precision in measurements, accuracy in craftsmanship, or adherence to safety protocols, leaders must instill a culture where every detail matters. UT News. 


Setting Standards for Orderliness 

A well-made bed symbolizes order, and in the trades, leaders must establish and maintain orderliness on job sites. Organized workspaces, efficient workflows, and proper resource management contribute to a smooth and productive operation.


Recognizing the Impact of Small Actions

Small actions have a ripple effect. Leaders understand that seemingly minor decisions can majorly impact project outcomes. Acknowledging the significance of these actions fosters a culture of accountability and responsibility. 


Active Listening 

Effective communication originates from active listening. Whether we're interacting with clients, peers, or team members, it's crucial to invest time in comprehending their needs, concerns, and preferences. Demonstrating trust and empathy and giving undivided attention are essential elements. It's important to avoid interruptions or premature conclusions, as these can lead to misunderstandings. Encouraging questions and feedback is vital for ongoing improvement and ensuring alignment.

As leaders within an organization, you must dedicate time to connect with individuals in your company. Understand their motivations and identify how you can best support them, focusing on the positive impact you can make. Ensure that your presentation reflects your true self and your values. Keep in mind that both inside and outside the workplace, people are observing your words and actions. Individuals are more than their professional accomplishments; they serve as extensions and reflections of your life.


Effective Communication

Communication is the backbone of every project, and it can make or break our reputation, impact client relationships, and influence teamwork dynamics. Strong leadership is built on effective communication. Contractors need to communicate clearly with both their teams and customers. Keep your team informed about project objectives, expectations, and timelines. Listen actively to their feedback and concerns and ensure all team members are on the same page. Additionally, transparent and open communication with your customers can help build trust and satisfaction. Explore the The Art of Practical Communication to enhance your communication skills. 

According to research, 90% of all communications are verbal (Thompson, J. Ph.D.). The gestures you express, intentionally or not, can convey specific impressions. In a world where communication goes beyond words, mastering the art of positive body language is like having a superpower at your disposal. Do you know what your non-verbal communications are saying? Decoding Non-verbal Communication unlocks the potential of positive body language and opens doors to success that words alone cannot


Team Building and a Sense of Belonging

Team-building at work enhances cooperation and communication among colleagues. Engaging in extracurricular activities helps team members understand each other's communication styles and strengths, fostering efficient and transparent communication within the group. Team-building exercises also create a sense of belonging. Belonging is highly correlated to engagement. What is the return on investment (ROI) and business impact of belonging at work? According to research, only 20% of employees who feel they don’t belong are engaged, versus 91% of those who feel they do – that’s three and a half times more! (Herbert, 2022). A sense of belonging not only meets your employees’ basic needs but also inspires their work, impacts employee morale and well-being, and drives better business results.

The impact of belonging when comparing employee engagement levels between individuals who feel like they belong and those who don't:

  • 81% Feel like they belong
  • 15% Don’t feel like they belong

Source: Qualtrics.XM, 2022


Empower and Motivate Your Team

A good leader empowers others to take ownership of their work. Encourage your employees to share ideas and take initiative. Recognize and reward their hard work and achievements. Motivating your team and providing growth opportunities will create a more engaged and loyal workforce. Admiral McRaven's message centers on the pursuit of excellence. In the trades, leaders must inspire their teams to strive for excellence in craftsmanship, professionalism, and safety for the customer and themselves. Setting high standards and consistently aiming for quality work contribute to projects' success. 


Fostering Team Collaboration

Admiral McRaven encouraged collective effort in his speech, a principle paramount in the Navy (UT News, 2014). and the trades. Leaders must cultivate a collaborative spirit among team members and ensure everyone works cohesively toward common objectives. The synergy of a well-coordinated team is vital to project success! 


Develop Problem-Solving Skills

The contracting industry is rife with unexpected challenges and problems. Leaders in the trades should be adept at problem-solving. Encourage your team to brainstorm solutions when issues arise and lead them to the best action. Your ability to stay calm under pressure and find answers will inspire confidence in your team and clients. Discover valuable tips on prioritizing work when everything is #1.


Prioritize Safety

Safety should be a top priority for any contractor. A strong leader ensures that safety protocols are #1. Create a safety-focused culture within your team by providing proper training and equipment. Customers will appreciate your commitment to their well-being, and your employees will respect your dedication to their safety. Safety is not just skin deep; it extends to digital data. To learn how to protect your customers' sensitive information, explore Cybersecurity Measures.


Continual Learning

Leadership is a journey, not a destination. Invest in your own personal and professional development. Attend workshops, ServiceTitan’s Pantheon conferences, and seminars on leadership and your specific trade. Learning from others and staying up-to-date with industry trends will make you a more informed and effective leader.


Adaptability and Resilience

The trade industry is ever-evolving, with new technologies and methods constantly emerging. As a leader, you must be adaptable and willing to embrace change. Be resilient in the face of setbacks and be open to trying new approaches when necessary. Navigate challenges with resilience in the face of adversity, a quality essential in the trades. Leaders must navigate unforeseen challenges, adapt to changing circumstances, and guide their teams through obstacles to ensure safety, project continuity, and success. UT News.



As leaders in the trades industry, the call to action is clear – embrace the principles outlined here and continuously strive for excellence. Building excellent leadership skills is crucial for success. The fundamental principles of leading by example, establishing disciplined work practices, paying attention to detail, setting standards for orderliness, recognizing the impact of small actions, active listening, effective communication, team building and a sense of belonging, empowering and motivating your team, fostering team collaboration, developing problem-solving skills, prioritizing safety, continual learning, and embracing adaptability and resilience collectively form the bedrock of exceptional leadership. 

Remember, leadership is a continuous journey; continual improvement is crucial for sustained success. Developing robust leadership skills will boost your professional standing and foster a positive, secure, and efficient work atmosphere for your team. In turn, it will result in satisfied customers – happy customers are likely to return, and their positive recommendations will contribute to the growth of your business.



  1. Thompson, J. Ph.D. (2012, September 30). Is Nonverbal Communication a Numbers Game? Psychology Today.

  2. Herbert, C. (2022, September 16). Belonging at work: The top driver of employee engagement. Qualtircs.XM.


What leadership strategies do you rely on to remain competitive and actively contribute to the overall success of your teams and business?

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Last update:
‎12-06-2023 11:10 AM
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