Pathways to Firm Ownership and Leadership

Contributed by Michael Strogoff, FAIA


What are the primary issues in architecture firms related to ownership models, leadership succession, and leadership development? How do younger architects understand leadership skills and the steps to becoming a leader within a firm? How do emerging professionals make decisions regarding becoming an owner, a leader, or both?

An architecture firm depends on strong leadership, arguably more than most professional service firms. It is a creative business tasked with improving the built environment, navigating a diverse set of client requirements, protecting public health, safety and welfare, collaborating with other design professionals, employing staff with myriad skills, and orchestrating projects from design inception through final punch lists.

To succeed as such, a firm must constantly evaluate its leadership development program to meet both short-term needs and mid- and long-term strategic goals, including how a succession framework will be implemented and how the firm is governed. Firms must continuously identify, train, and mentor the next generation of leaders, and groom some of them to assume ownership positions, while future leaders must expand their skillsets and stretch their comfort zones.