On the 16th March I had the opportunity to attend the first of a three part programme of the RIBA Future Leaders conference at Portland Place. The half-day event brought together Architecture professionals on the theme of Learning to Lead. 

The core learning outcomes were:

  • The competencies of successful leaders,
  • Building on personal strengths & addressing challenges,
  • Why & how to build your professional profile and
  • How to present with impact and connect with clients.

The event was delivered by four key speakers and was a thoroughly engaging, interactive and an all-round afternoon well-spent! It provided a fantastic opportunity to speak with practitioners from a range of backgrounds, practice types and scale, to gain insight into different experiences and challenges, (and I even unexpectedly bumped into some old colleagues and university classmates).

The key speakers were; Andy Bow (Senior Partner at Fosters & Partners), who shared a personal account of his journey from a young architecture student to Partner at one of the most renowned architectural practices in the world; followed by Sadie Morgan (Founding Director at dRMM), presenting ‘Preparing for the Pitch’, focussing on the strategies for connecting with, communicating effectively and listening to our clients; Jennifer Holloway a Personal Brand expert, spoke on the topic of marketing ourselves as individuals and honing in what we each have to offer that sets us apart from others; and finally Jack Russell, a well-renowned Leadership coach, who delivered a comprehensive and interactive two-part session on the Nine Competencies of Leadership, a reflective session to improve self-awareness of strengths and areas of improvement.

The importance of strong leaders and good role models

Whilst the Future Leaders event has been running for some years now, this was the first time in three years that it was possible to all come together in person due to the pandemic. The benefit of this ‘real-life’ event evidently brought with it an energy that can’t be captured over MS Teams. This year, the need for strong leaders and good role models feels particularly pertinent, as we collectively as an industry are at the forefront of concurrently finding solutions to support the climate emergency, the changes in regulations since the Grenfell tragedy, the impact of Brexit and the war in Ukraine, a changed world and way of life as we emerge from the worst of the pandemic and rising energy prices and cost of raw material. How we navigate this changing landscape is the challenge, and strong leadership and people skills must be part of the solution.

The qualities of leadership

Notwithstanding we have a challenge ahead, the good news is that, inherently, Architects are creative, problem solvers, experienced at working under pressure, adept at spinning lots of plates simultaneously, accustomed to learning new things throughout their careers and possibly most importantly, keen to have a positive impact on the world; some of the key qualities of leadership in a period that necessitates agility, innovation, knowledge sharing, self-awareness and interpersonal skills.

The second part of the three-part programme RIBA Future Leaders will be taking place in May and will focus on Leading Teams.