As Facilities Manager’s we have a leadership role to play in our teams. Facilities Management is one of the quickest routes for our youngest talent to get onto the leadership ladder. As an FM you will also have access to some of the highest levels of management in your Client’s organisation, and you will need to up skill yourself quickly in the needs of both your team and your Client.

I have written extensively about leadership and facilities management. The 2 Leadership Styles You Need to Turnaround Your Contracts and The 5 Reasons your Team is not Performing are just two of the posts that you will find at Workplacefundi.

FM Leadership is already one of the most diverse and rapidly growing job descriptions and areas of responsibility. Facilities Managers face the pressures of leadership as well as the functional challenges add these together, and you have a role that is a difficult one. Facility professionals should take stock of themselves and take all the capabilities and the tools that they can bring to bear to the situation at hand.

The following abilities are widely accepted as being essential for anyone who wants to move into an FM leadership position.

1. Strategic

The Facilities leader needs to be able to interpret not only strategic documents but the strategic intent and analyse these to understand how he/she manages the impact of the facilities on the strategic objectives of the organisation. This not only applicable to the company’s fixed assets but also the personnel involved.

The ability to accumulate and assimilate strategic and complex information is expected. The ability to critically analyse the data to make it actionable through the implementation of operational strategies is essential.

Our workplaces are changing fast, and the introduction of increasing amounts of technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) means that ever-expanding sets of data are a reality that we need to deal with.

The good news is that automation will take the lion’s share of the repetitive and logistical tasks associated with the processing of information. So if we are to take real advantage of the advances in technology the role of humans in the workplace needs to adapt.

2. Collaborative

In a recent interview with FM TV, I spoke about how being an FM tests individual leadership potential at an early age. At the lowest levels of Facilities Management, you must be able to build and lead an effective team.ven if this is only a handyman and a couple of cleaners.

Modern FM leaders have come out of the basement plant room of yesteryear and are now expected to be visible to their entire team and lead by example. Your team will be looking to you for inspiration and action as well as mentorship and training in all aspects of Facilities Management. You will need to be able to recognise excellence in others and select individuals that will help the team grow and deliver increasing amounts of value to the Customer.

Modern FM leaders have come out of the basement plant room of yesteryear Click To Tweet

Due to the pressures of the job, Facilities Managers can be prone to retreat into their shells and become lone operators. Increasingly, however, FM’s are at the centre of the collaborative workplace disciplines of Human Resources, IT and Corporate Real Estate. This is a role that was postulated in the Stoddart Review that of Chief Workplace Officer. Check out my post-Chief Workplace Officer – a Promotion for Facility Managers?

This collaborative mindset needs to magnify and reflect back people’s strengths within the team. This requires skills to discover and maximise not only your strengths but those of other people by giving them a chance to develop. In doing so, the FM leader needs to understand that the best people will want to be visible and recognised for their achievements. In contrast, the weakest performers should be encouraged to see a path towards improvement rather than vilified and punished.

Good performance should be compensated and incentivized but care needs to be taken that this is done at a team, rather than an individual level where we generate value for each other. This can only be done where there is freedom to take risks within the framework that people understand and believe in. This means having a set of rules that everyone understands and that applies equally to everybody.

While it is understandable that you will want to jump right in and make an immediate impact to shine in front of your boss and your Client, make sure that you give credit where credit is due and take your team along with you. Everyone needs to know that you’re working towards a common cause and that their job is necessary and how they contribute to that cause. It is essential that all members of the team have a purpose greater than themselves and that their job is meaningful to them.

3. Knowledgeable

FM Knowledge

One of the most important qualities of an FM leader is being comfortable being a Jill-of-all-trades as opposed to a mistress of one. To maintain this over an extended period the facilities leader must have a thirst for knowledge and must stay current with the latest FM industry news to avoid using out-dated methods and processes.

You should network with other facilities professionals, including attending conferences, reading industry papers and magazines as well as tracking trends within the industry. This will require a great deal of your personal time but building personal knowledge is necessary to provide leadership of your team and to establish credibility with your clients.

Client Knowledge

But FM knowledge is not enough; this has to be understood in the context of your Clients business no matter what industry they are in. If FM is to be of value to your Clients business, it needs to enhance that business. You need to understand how the facilities you manage, impact on that business and make it more effective, efficient or economic. You will need to adapt and innovate with ever increasing speed, and the FM leader needs to stay up-to-date to guarantee that the workforce is productive as possible.

Workplace Knowledge

In addition to the functional FM knowledge and Clients market knowledge, you must be expected to be up-to-date with the latest workplace trends and how these interfaces and interact in the Customers workplace to ensure the highest levels of productivity.

While you’re not expected to be an interior designer you need to be able to understand how can you create an open office that cultivates collaboration without stifling productivity or creating distractions?

How can you best utilise available space, and know when the business has outgrown its current environment? How can you best arrange the company’s most valuable equipment to ensure everyone has easy access? You will need to be ready to offer solutions to improve the current working environment.

Financial Knowledge

All of the above areas of knowledge need to come together when finding a balance between building a productive environment but staying within budget restrictions. The ability to plan for unforeseen expenditure and understanding the needs to be able to determine capital v operating expenditure and where and when investments are required that will benefit the workplace are all essential elements of sound financial management.

An FM leader needs to be comfortable being a Jill-of-all-trades Click To Tweet

4. Personable 

Facilities leaders are in constant contact with all levels of employees within the Client organisation from the shop floor through to the C-Suite. Also the ability to deal with the regulatory bodies suppliers contractors and in many situations, the Clients’ Customer, mean that the need has to understand how to connect with each to be able to make the best decisions on how to manage the workplace.

This ability is not easily obtained and requires a high degree of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and self-awareness. This does not mean you have to be a raving extrovert, in fact, a large dose of humble pie will get you much further in this role than the arrogance that can come with excessive self-confidence.

5. Resourceful

Most managers will confirm that they never have enough resources. Whether those resources are time, money, people or tools we could always do more with more. Unfortunately, the mantra of our age is to do more with less. The secret, therefore, it is to take advantage of the resources that you do have and to improve the processes that lead to greater operational efficiency.

While sweating the assets is important it is also critical to understand their limitations, particularly of your people. You must always retain an open ear to your people expressing their concerns. You need to establish and maintain a culture where people are encouraged to express themselves and to think differently. The ability to maintain a safe environment that celebrates diversity and encourages responsible risk-taking as well as a safe degree of friction is essential for innovation and growth.

6. Flexible

Clients expect the workplace to be available for production at all times. However, running a sophisticated facility requires downtime for maintenance and disruption from some projects will be inevitable. To minimise the effect on the normal working environment, there will be times when weekend and night-time working will be required. In most instances, this time can be planned which may mean that time should be given to your staff instead of the out-of-hours working.

Not all such issues can be planned the nature of the FM business is that emergencies do occur and short notice of after hours working is a racing certainty. In my past, I had occasion to work in an environment where a high number of electrical cutovers were required, and these could only be accommodated between midnight and 4 o’clock in the morning. This required attendance on site during these times. I had to ensure the safe working of my staff and that my employees enjoyed a healthy working life so we would give the staff member time off either immediately before or after the event. Irrespective of the planned events that had been scheduled.

7. Excellent Communicator

As an FM leader, you’re not just responsible for order-taking or order-making, you have to be ready at moment’s notice to speak eloquently and comfortably with all stakeholders from the C-Suite to the shop floor and beyond.

You must be able to communicate the value of FM, not merely the cost. This will involve sharing operational information, financial information right through to data analysis and knowledge from reports. You’ll be expected to present in front of board meetings as well as staff and supplier meetings.

You will be required to communicate effectively in a variety of settings both using external resources such as slide decks and spreadsheets but also impromptu communication using whiteboards and whatever falls to hand. This will require you to explain complex topics in simple terms using language that can be understood by the layperson or the CEO.

You will be required to unleash and manage the flow of information in such a way that your audience understands what is going on and what the implications of your actions are. It is important to provide the context to complex situations and that a full and unadulterated explanation is given without spin.

In situations where unintended consequences have occurred or where a situation has got out of control, it is important to be able to deliver bad news to managers and top executives quickly and succinctly together with your suggested restoration plan.

From your staff’s perspective and your company colleagues, it is important to stand for something, be proud of where you work and what you’re accomplishing. Keep your eye on the financials but understand that profit is not your overriding goal.

8. Creative

Facilities management may not be the first career you think of when you think of a creative endeavour. However business at its very core is about solving problems. As an FM you are a problem solver. Some of these problems are long in the making and even longer in solving; others will happen in a flash and require resolution even quicker.

You will be expected to think on your feet when under enormous pressure. You will most likely face challenges that have severe financial consequences both for the Client and for your company regarding potential penalties. You will face situations where you neither have the solution, the resources or the authority to resolve but nonetheless, the Client is looking at you. You may even have situations that rarely happen, where peoples lives are in your hands.

FM Leasership does not require you to be ‘MacGyver’ but your ability to create a resolution will be tested, and you will require courage to implement. But remember courage is not the absence of fear it is the capacity to act in spite of fear.

On a more mundane level, your ability to be and think creatively will be the engine for innovation and growth, and it is what will set you apart from others in your organisation.

FM Leadership does not require you to be MacGyver Click To Tweet


Search Amazon Books for titles on Leadership, and you will be inundated with over 1200 titles it is a subject that has been debated ad infinitum in the management circles for 50 years. What do you have read here is not new and it is not definitive for all-encompassing of what is required of an FM leader.

Leadership is one of those ephemeral attributes that is impossible to describe even in a given context such as facilities management. However, it is obvious when it is present and even more striking when it is not. What are you covered here today gives you the basics that need to be in place if you are to be considered a leader in the FM field.

Remember that as a family that you have a critical role to play and potentially a huge impact on your Client’s success you need passion, vision and drive. You have a position of power with that comes responsibility. The facilities that you manage are probably the second biggest expense for your client, but more than that those facilities have a massive impact on the productivity of your Client’s most important asset; it’s people.

This week’s Question; What do you think it takes to be a Facilities Leader? Please leave your comments in the space below