Skip to Main Content Skip to Footer



Leadership. The word evokes powerful images. Often, those images are of history’s great military, political, religious, or industrial leaders. Those leaders, faced with incredibly difficult challenges or crises, led people, organizations, and sometimes entire societies toward a vision of the future that only they could see. More often than not, the resulting outcomes were of significant benefit to humankind.

On an equally important but less monumental scale, the power and importance of leadership is also demonstrated each and every day. Large and small businesses, clubs, churches, and political groups would not be successful without the leadership of individuals in their organizations. With leadership, these groups are able to attain outcomes that benefit both the people within the organization and the people served by it. In fact, so important is leadership in the success of any endeavor that it is not difficult to find numerous examples of organizations, no matter how wealthy or progressive, that eventually failed because they lacked the people with a vision and the willingness to lead.

Higher education, an institution created to improve human self-awareness and ability, is facing a significant period of change in its own development and evolution. Serious financial constraints are making it difficult for higher education to continue to serve an ever-expanding population with wide-ranging needs and requirements, using its historic business model. These constraints have challenged all segments of the higher education delivery system, including the provision and management of facilities.

Leadership in the management of land, buildings, and equipment is of critical importance to the future of higher education for a number of reasons. First, many senior officers in higher education institutions lack the training and knowledge necessary to understand the role that facilities play in the future viability of their institution. Second, those in charge of facilities services are finding success increasingly difficult to achieve if they follow the same approaches and techniques used by previous facilities managers. This difficulty has created great pressure to devise and test new approaches and techniques. Third, facilities managers must team with others both within and outside higher education to deploy new management techniques necessary to support higher education’s emerging facilities requirements.

Because the need for leadership in higher education facilities management is so critical, APPA is devoting a separate chapter of the Body of Knowledge to this topic.  There are hundreds of theories and treatises on the subject of leading and leadership, so a full discussion of these concepts is not possible here; however, a brief overview of some of the more important ideas applicable to the field of facilities management is necessary.  The primary focus is the practical aspects of leadership: its characteristics, its traits, and its activities. The three fundamental areas in which leadership is important are (1) setting direction, (2) building the management team, and (3) team leadership.

To help readers understand why being a leader in facilities management is important to the future of higher education, a brief history of modern higher education and the role of facilities in its evolution provides some context.

The Evolution of Facilities Management

The development of higher education in most modern societies evolved through three phases: formation, expansion, and maturity. In many European countries, these phases extended over periods of many decades and may have cycled between periods of expansion and maturity. In the United States and Canada, the three phases generally can be grouped in three time periods. Beginning with the establishment of Harvard in 1636 and continuing through the early 1900s, the United States formed much of its present higher education system. Until World War II, higher education institutions grew slowly and generally were stable in their organization, curriculum, and systems of management. In the 1940s through the early 1970s, a period of unprecedented expansion occurred. Beginning in the mid-1970s, higher education reentered a period of maturity, again marked by slowed growth and little change in administrative approaches or program organization.

During formation of institutions, facilities issues consisted of little more than finding property; building or buying the institution’s first building; and hiring the staff, tradespeople, or contractors needed to operate and maintain these small, cloistered college campuses. Then things changed dramatically. Fueled by the GI Bill and the post-World War II baby boom, colleges and universities found themselves with a burgeoning demand for their educational products. Between 1950 and 1975, higher education experienced a building boom in the United States, with building area more than quadrupling, from 570 million to more than 2.3 billion gross square feet. In this period, entire new campus planning and construction departments were created, often separated from the buildings and grounds department. Positions such as campus planner and university architect emerged to manage the expansion; these positions often were filled by people who had little, if any, practical experience in the operation of buildings, let alone college campuses. Original campus master plans were discarded, new concepts of site development and building design were enlisted, and campuses as we know them today were constructed. Higher education emerged from the expansion phase with few resources in reserve; almost everything had been spent to expand programs and campuses. In addition, operating costs were increasingly fixed, with required payments for energy bills and debt service consuming a large percentage of the budget.

Although the end of the 1970s could be labeled as the start of a period of maturity for U.S. higher education with regard to programs and campus size, the accompanying socioeconomic environment has been anything but stable. The pace of technology change has quickened. Changes in demographics, the economy, and societal needs and expectations have dramatically affected the way in which colleges and universities must operate. With regard to management of the facilities organization, laissez-faire attitudes toward facilities and their management are no longer possible.

Growing Need for Effective Facilities Management

The design, construction, use, maintenance, and even demolition of facilities should not be left to novices. Significant forces are driving the trend toward more sophisticated facilities management practices. These forces are technology, regulation, and economics.


Technological change has affected every aspect of modern life and higher education. First, technology drives changes in what and how things are taught. This drive is manifested in an escalating demand to modernize every type of facility on ever-decreasing time cycles. Second, technology has changed the way facilities are designed, built, and maintained. The current lexicon is quite different from a historical perspective: CAD (computer-aided design), smart buildings, LAN (local area networks), WLAN (wireless LAN), network engineering, and fiber optics, to name a few. Third, technology is intensifying the problem of obsolescence when constructing fixed assets during a period of rapid technological change.


Laws and regulations abound to protect workers, the public, the environment, business, students, parents, historical artifacts, faculty, administrators, and just about everything else. They affect every facet of facilities design, construction, and operation. If codes and laws are not followed, any resulting damage, injury, or death can be catastrophic. An overly cautious adherence to regulations, however, can unnecessarily burden an institution’s operation or waste its scarce resources.


For many reasons, higher education has not been able to shed costs as have for-profit businesses faced with declining or inelastic revenues. The normal life expectancy of buildings has been eroded by the failure to make timely repairs. Thus, the expected useful life of facilities has been shortened, and total costs of ownership have increased. These costs come at a time when revenues are being constrained by the inability or unwillingness of higher education’s customers and benefactors to continually pay more. Higher education is currently experiencing the difficulty of having to replace its prematurely aging facilities at a time when costs for operating and maintaining those facilities are higher than expected. The three forces of technology, regulation, and economics are creating the need for substantial reinvestment in higher education facilities. However, this increasing demand for capital is curtailed by a limited supply of funds, caused by declining revenues. The ability to set aside reserves or increase debt service requirements is therefore limited. These conditions are likely to affect higher education well into the twenty-first century.

Taken alone, these conditions are more than enough to demand better decision-making and management of higher education facilities, but even more critical is the increasingly important role that facilities play in determining the quality and success of higher education. Several studies have established the relationship of facilities to customers’ perceptions of the quality of educational outcomes1. The management of facilities is becoming increasingly important and, therefore, “doing things right” in managing facilities will no longer suffice. Managers must begin to “do the right things.” This is the essential challenge facing those who are in charge of higher education’s facilities.

The Nature of a Leader's Job


Doing the right things in most any field of human endeavor, including facilities management, is not easy. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, and we would not need to talk about the problems facing higher education. However, the problems facing facilities managers are very real and complex, and will require some fundamental changes in how they approach and manage their job. This is what David Noer, in his book Healing the Wounds, calls “culture busting.”2 It is the process of abandoning old paradigms and creating new ones. It requires that managers abandon their existing beliefs and venture into new and uncharted solutions. This process is extremely unsettling and would be impossible if it were not for a single great attribute of humankind: leadership! Therefore, we will briefly visit some of the concepts of leading, leaders, and the wonderful art of leadership.

Words and phrases commonly used to define leadership include the following:

  • To go before
  • To show the way
  • To induce or influence
  • To guide
  • To command or direct
  • To cause

Such words convey the fundamental principle but not the essence. Two other descriptions of what it means to lead may be more illustrative:

  • Leadership is seeking answers to questions that have not yet been asked.
  • The sign of a truly great leader is when everyone thinks they thought of the idea first.

Of course, the modern business press is flooded with books on leadership. Some of the more respected sources are listed at the end of this chapter. Although theoretical constructs describing the dynamics, characteristics, and processes of leadership are interesting, we do not have the space and it is not essential to develop a true understanding of this phenomenon. For the purposes of this manual, we will assume a certain acquaintance with some of the literature. As Warren Bennis points out in his book, Why Leaders Can’t Lead, “the sum total of my experiences convinced me that most of the academic theory on leadership was useless.”3 Therefore, we will leave theory to the academics and concentrate instead on how some of the common elements of these theories might be applied to the problem of leadership in facilities management.

Bennis, Drucker, and many other theoreticians who have pondered and studied the elements of leadership have routinely identified a few critical skills or philosophies characteristic of leaders. The presence of these skills is generally common to all leaders or situations of leadership, and therefore, an understanding of them is critical to leadership in higher education facilities management. These critical elements are vision, values, empowerment, communication, and self-understanding.


Everything begins with vision. Vision is the most elementary component and sometimes the most difficult to comprehend, yet its importance cannot be understated or underestimated. Vision is simple enough to understand if we liken it to a picture in someone’s mind not of what is, but of what might be. The great leaders of history held such pictures: ultimate victory in war, a conquered disease, social justice, a new product, a resurrected company. The mental pictures were real to the visionary and were a visualization of the final product of the road yet to be taken and the struggles and difficulties yet to be endured. These pictures sustained, excited, and encouraged those who held them. Most important, they could be, and were, shared with others.

Are we born with a vision, or does it just pop into our heads? Most who have studied leadership and human behavior believe that a vision is the result of enthusiasm, desire, and hope. We create in our minds a picture of what we want to be or what we want our organizations to be. One technique used to help create these images is to imagine yourself on a certain date, such as your birthday, five years in the future. Describe what your life, your job, or your institution will be like on that date, as you hope they will be. That description forms your vision for either personal or organizational goals. With some practice, this technique has proven to be powerful in creating images of what might be achieved.

What vision do managers have for their facilities? Is it a vision that supports and furthers the mission of the university? Does it reflect on the institution’s current situation as well as its hopes for the future? Does it respond to maintaining the proper balance of facilities and the other two critical components of higher education, faculty, and students? What is your vision for your institution with respect to its facilities?


Leaders represent and model one of the greatest strengths of any organization: its values. Stephen R. Covey, in his book Principle-Centered Leadership, talks about the fundamental requirement that leaders must be trustworthy.4People will believe and follow those whom they fundamentally trust. How is trust built? The basic ingredient is honesty, closely followed by sincerity, loyalty, commitment, and a host of other beliefs and behaviors called values. Without the establishment and overt expression of the values that govern actions and relationships within and without the organization, leaders cannot lead, and followers will not follow.

What values do facilities managers practice? What values govern their relationships and the conduct of business with senior management, deans, faculty, staff, students, consultants, suppliers, contractors, legislators, and others? What values do they expect to be exhibited in their dealings with members of their organizations? The consistent reinforcement of values, as evidenced by the behavior of the leader, is as important to the cause of leadership as any noble vision.


Every organization has both leaders and followers. What is commonly overlooked is that in every successful organization, there are as many leaders as there are followers. That is because, through the course of every day and every moment, the leadership role is assumed by some who a moment earlier were themselves following. Therefore, just as the chief facilities officer may lead, so, too, must employees at each level of the organization, all the way to the frontline employee who may be interacting directly with the customer. Each individual must lead or follow depending on the circumstance and the task to be accomplished; each individual must have a vision, all congruent with the organization’s overarching vision; and each individual must hold to and act consistently with the values of the organization. This is the essence of empowerment. It is the promotion and expectation that each member of the organization will do his or her best to fulfill the mission and vision of the organization and will lead others in that pursuit as the occasion may present itself. Many of the greatest victories in war were often determined not by generals, but by the heroic leadership of captains, sergeants, and soldiers. These individuals were prepared, believed, and were empowered to “assume command” when the need arose.

Empowerment in facilities management is no different. Do managers prepare, encourage, and expect the members of their organizations to take initiative, participate in teamwork, teach coworkers, and represent to others the values and vision of the organization? Do they reward their people for what Herb Kelleher5 of Southwest Airlines calls “positively outrageous service”?.


Ronald Reagan was dubbed the “great communicator.” Although many people may not judge him to have been a particularly inspiring or forceful speaker, he nonetheless was extremely effective at selling his ideas and marshaling support for the direction in which he wished to lead the United States. Not only did he sincerely believe in his vision for the country, but he was willing to speak out, not once, but over and over again.

Communication is an important element of leadership for a number of reasons. First, it is essential in the transfer of the organization’s vision from one individual to another. Although a leader might have a vision, others will not work to achieve it until they, too, have the same vision. This vision is transferred by three basic mechanisms of communication: watching how the leader acts, reading what the leader writes, and hearing what the leader says. If there is any inconsistency among the three forms, the picture will become jumbled or distorted. Therefore, a leader must effectively and consistently communicate the organization’s vision in actions, speech, and writing. Second, communication is important to reinforce actions or behaviors that further the organization’s goals and its vision. Communicating to an individual that what he or she has done is important and valued significantly increases the odds that the beneficial activities will be repeated in the future. It also affords an opportunity to communicate to others, if they witness the leader catching people doing things right, that they, too, will be rewarded and recognized if they perform similar beneficial acts. Consistent and continual communication through both actions and words is how vision and values are built within the organization. How do we communicate in leading the facilities management function of an institution? Do we walk the talk? Do we even talk? Do we reinforce what we write by how we act and what we say, or do our actions and words contradict what we write? Communication is one of the essential elements of leadership.


Simply put, self-understanding is an awareness and appreciation by leaders that they are not infallible. Leaders generally must be aware that they can lead for either good or bad. Therefore, to lead, they must continually ask questions about where they are going and how they are getting there. This constant introspection should not be confused with a lack of self-confidence. It is a constructive search for validation of the worthiness of the organization’s mission and vision. It also is a continuing review of all activities to ensure that the organization’s values have not been corrupted or compromised. Examples abound on how leadership has been used for destructive ends because a leader began to believe he or she was godlike or because others were allowed to corrupt the organization’s values.

In facilities management, self-understanding can best be tested by continually asking both the institution’s leadership and facilities users how their needs are being met. General support for the direction and the products of the organization are clear indicators that the vision and values continue to be concurrent with the mission of the institution. It is also necessary for leaders to continually test themselves. How do their own personalities, behavioral tendencies, and predisposition affect others or the interpretation of information? Such introspection is extremely useful.

For example, personal prejudices can subtly affect who is believed and, therefore, what information is accepted or rejected. An awareness of these prejudices can help counter that initial, sometimes subconscious filtering of data on which decisions are ultimately made. An understanding of such tendencies allows managers the opportunity to revisit initial reactions or choices and to reconsider information or decisions from another perspective.

How do these elements combine to help managers lead the facilities management function of a college or university? Although each element is essential, the combination of values, communication, empowerment, and self-understanding nurture, give life to, and “transport” the leader’s vision. A simple visualization of this might be a four-wheeled vehicle, with “vision” as the occupant, carried along on the four wheels of “values,” “empowerment,” “communication,” and “self-understanding.”

Regardless of how leadership is established, it is still anything but straightforward in the higher education setting. That is because facilities are but one, albeit critical, component of the total education process. As part of a whole and to be truly effective, the facilities manager must lead in three dimensions, not just one. The leadership role must extend first to the facilities organization itself, second to the institution it serves, and third to all of higher education professional facilities management. This is a formidable challenge–not only to lead an organization, but to lead in both the institution and the profession. This may seem like a tall order. However, if we examine in some detail what is involved in truly leading the facilities function, this challenge may actually appear less mystical and quite manageable.

To understand the practical dimensions of leadership in each of the three areas, it is most helpful to answer a series of questions covering the essential elements. Although it is tempting to answer the questions with a simple “yes” or “no,” the questions will have greater benefit if they are answered instead with brief sentences describing either what was done or what you might wish to do. For example, in answering the question, “How do you inform others of your mission?” you might describe how employees are currently informed. Alternatively, you might describe ways you would like to do this better in the future. The questions are intended to help you devise methods for establishing leadership by provoking consideration of real-world actions you can implement, not just theorize about. Later, we will use these answers to develop a personal leadership plan.

Setting Direction


Leadership is most commonly seen as something that the head of an organization should provide. However, leadership must be demonstrated at all levels of an organization, and it must be demonstrated every day and in many different ways. How is this accomplished? The organization must have a unifying vision and an understanding of its overarching mission. This vision must be reinterpreted into a series of linked, interrelated mission statements for each subunit of the organization. The result is that each member of the organization gains an understanding of his or her responsibility in the overall effort. Stephen Covey, in his book Principle-Centered Leadership, argues that this feature is the single-most-important determinant of an organization’s success.6 Leadership in the facilities department is the fundamental process of creating and achieving an understanding of these linked missions, which are tied together by a unifying vision.


The first step is to define the entire organization’s mission. In other words, what is the stated reason the organization exists? What is its role and purpose? In preparing a mission statement, clarity and understanding are critical. The statement must be unique, differentiating itself from the role and purpose of other organizations in the institution. The following is an example of an unclear mission statement:

“The Mission of Facilities Management is to effectively and efficiently provide services that support the faculty, staff, and students in their search for excellence.”

What’s wrong with this mission statement? Couldn’t the same be said of the library, finance department, or a dozen other organizations in the institution?

The following is an example of a simple and clear mission statement:

“The Facilities Management organization is dedicated to providing an attractive, clean, safe, and reliable educational environment necessary to support the mission and goals of the university.”

How do you know whether you have a clear statement of your mission? Evaluate the statement, and its use, against the following criteria:

  • Do you have a simple, easily understood statement of your department’s mission?
  • Does it state specifically what your department intends to achieve?
  • Does it communicate why your department’s mission is important to the success of the institution?
  • How does your department enhance the outcomes or “products” of your institution?
  • What would happen if your mission were no longer pursued?
  • Does each subunit of the department have a mission statement?
  • Do these mission statements explain how the subunits enhance the outcomes and products of the department?
  • What would happen if a subunit’s mission were eliminated?
  • Do all employees understand the department’s mission, their unit’s mission, and their personal responsibility to the achievement of those missions?
  • If you asked any employee in the department, could he or she explain this mission?
  • Do you periodically review your mission statement for consistency with the mission and objectives of your institution?


Aspiring leaders commonly confuse mission and vision. A mission speaks only to why an organization exists. A vision speaks to the future and addresses what an organization aspires to achieve in the fulfillment of its mission. While a mission must be unique, a vision may not be, as many organizations may aspire to the same vision. One common element to both mission and vision is that the results must be identifiable and measurable. For example, if you said that five years from now you wanted to attain a certain amount of wealth, how would you know if you did? In other words, how would you know you were “wealthy?” Would you need to have $1, $10, or $100 million in the bank? Or would being wealthy mean having a happy and healthy family, living together in a comfortable house, and going on a nice vacation each year? Or would wealthy mean something else?

The following is an example of an unmeasurable vision statement:

“Facilities Management will be the premier facilities department in the state.”

What does premier mean? Does it mean having the best customer service, the best organized department, or the best-looking staff?

The following is an example of a measurable vision statement:

“We strive to provide the best value to our customers in terms of responsiveness, customer service, and quality.”

Is it measurable? You bet! Once each year, you could ask your customers if they feel the services you provide have the best value in those three dimensions. If you score even 50 percent in your first year, any improvement from year to year would prove that you are successfully striving to offer the best value. To evaluate your own vision statement, answer the following questions:

  • If you were fantastically successful in achieving your mission, how would you know? What tangible indicators would show the success of your mission?
  • What could be done that is not now possible in your mission area to make your institution the leader among its peers or competitors?
  • What would you, as a leader in the facilities department, like to say your organization had achieved five years from now?
  • What would you like for others to be saying five years from now in recognition of your unit’s success?
  • What accomplishments would you like to write on your resume that you would be most proud of?
  • If you left the institution five years from now, what would the president say at your farewell party?
  • Does the vision inspire, encourage, and require the organization to grow in order to fulfill its mission?

If you can fully answer these questions, you have gone a long way toward developing a vital cornerstone of leadership for your department.

But what if your vision of the future is different from that of others within your department? And what if your interpretation of the department’s mission is viewed from an entirely different perspective among your rank and file, or even the rest of the university? In such cases, you may find yourself trying to lead your department from one paradigm to a new one. In the case of David Noer’s “culture busting,” many of us must be prepared to lead our organizations through a paradigm change. This will not be easy, and it definitely will not be painless. Again, as Noer observes, we may find ourselves in the difficult position in which we “must destroy that which [we] created in the past, in order to make meaning for the future.”7 In such situations, the leadership of one individual will not be sufficient. It will take a team of individuals, all sharing the same picture of the mission and vision, to steer the organization along its path to a new paradigm. This is where the quality and commitment of your management team becomes important.

The Management Team


It is not unusual to refer in the plural to an organization’s “leadership,” as in “the leadership of XYZ organization undertook a new direction.” This term is often used interchangeably with “the management team” or the “leadership team.” But exactly what do these terms mean? And who are the members of an organization’s “leadership” or management team?

Every organization is composed of individuals or groups of individuals that perform various functions necessary for its successful operation. The people who direct and manage the performance of these functions make up an organization’s management team. In the case of Facilities Management (FM), the core functions (or products) central to its mission would include, for example, design and construction, building maintenance and housekeeping. In addition, the FM organization must be good at various support functions, such as accounting/budgeting, training, and information technology. The FM organization must excel in both its core products and its support functions. It stands to reason that the people who lead both the core products and support functions, i.e., the management team, must likewise be excellent if the organization is to excel in its mission.

But that alone is not the full story.  Numerous organizations have failed not because of a lack of qualified managers, but in their managers’ inability to work together as a team. Patrick Lencioni describes this phenomenon in his book, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.” His five dysfunctions include: Inattention to Results, Avoidance of Accountability, Fear of Conflict, Lack of Commitment, and Absence of Trust8. The bottom line is that no matter how good your managers might look on their resumes, if they don’t share a belief in your mission, vision, and values, and are unwilling to expend the effort or to take some risks to achieve them, your organization is doomed.

So how do we build a management team that works together and is committed to the mission, vision, and values? The answer is so deceptively simple, yet so rarely applied, that it is almost unbelievable. So in order to avoid disbelief, let’s explain it by way of a story.

A woman comes upon the bank of a raging river. At the bank are a doctor and his boat loaded with vaccines and medical supplies he is trying to get to the town on the other side of the river. The doctor has recruited some of the best rowers in the country to row his boat across the river, but none will get into his boat for fear the rushing water will swamp them. The doctor begs the woman to help him. She talks to each of the assembled rowers and soon a half dozen join her and the doctor in the boat to row across the river. What did the woman say to each of the rowers?


  1. I want to get the doctor and the medical supplies to the town to help them fight off the plague and to treat the sick. (Mission)
  2. We need to do this quickly without losing the doctor and/or supplies or people will die. (Vision)
  3. If we work together, give our best effort, and are honest with one another, we can do it. (Values)
  4. I’ve inspected the boat and oars and they are strong and sound. (Attention to details)
  5. Will you row with me? (Commitment)
  6. You must do exactly as I say if I see danger ahead, for the safety of everyone. If it looks like we cannot make it, we will return and modify the boat. If we get half way, we will go on. (Trust)
  7. Is there anything you would recommend? If so, now is the time to discuss it. (Accountability, Conflict)

What would you have said?

What do you say to your team given the “river” you are trying to cross? When you select the “rowers” for your management team, do you talk to them about mission, vision, values, and commitment? Do their actions indicate they trust you? Do your actions indicate you trust them? Can you imagine hiring someone based only on their resume, without ever interviewing them? Yet so many interviews are held without ever discussing the mission, vision, and values of the organization, and testing the applicant for his or her commitment to them! And how can you expect them to lead their departments in a way consistent with the values or vision of the organization if they do not share your understanding or belief in them? Pretty impossible isn’t it?

While it is easy tolerated (and often times productive) to disagree on means and methods, there can be no disagreement on mission, vision, and values. If there is, then the leader must help the person get off the bus (or boat). On a management team, it only takes one malcontent or sideline-sitter to sink the ship.

The strength of a management team is never more important than during a change in its external environment (crisis) or when trying to shift the organization to a new vision (paradigm change). Mahatma Gandhi once said, “We must become the change we wish to see in the world.”9 If so, then the management team must exhibit and communicate the behaviors expected within he organization. The continuing adoption of new information technology (IT) is an example. If the organization believes deftness in the application of IT is necessary to function effectively in the future, then the management team must be the first to embrace this idea.

How is this accomplished? How does a leader develop commitment, accountability, and trust within an organization? How do you get any group of people to sign up for the journey? This is the essence of Team Leadership.

Team Leadership


Leading a team of people (whether it be a production-level unit or a management team) toward a well-defined mission and vision calls on four other elements of leadership: values, communication, empowerment, and self-understanding. These elements are concerned with the “how” of leadership that is, how we interact with one another as a team and our common expectations for how each team member will behave. This is the foundation of team leadership because it generates the trust and trustworthiness necessary to work together in a productive relationship.


Values are best defined as the beliefs we have regarding how we should treat people and how we expect to be treated. The evidence of these values is demonstrated in the way we behave in day-to-day interactions. Values are as important to organizations as they are to individuals. They establish for us the motives behind any communication or action. For example, if an organization values honesty, then every communication in the organization is assumed to be truthful. In such an environment, the consequences of being dishonest are severe, and the offending party immediately will be ostracized from the group.

It is a human tendency to assume that everyone else subscribes to our personal values. Yet we know from experience that this is not true. In a team of people, it is extremely important to state the values that the team holds. Thus, members of the team will be able to decide whether those values are congruent with their personal values, and whether they wish to continue to support the mission and vision of the group given the environment in which they will participate.

An extreme negative example is Nazi Germany. While most nationalistic Germans supported the idea of a robust economy and a leading role in Europe, many could not accept the values of the Nazi Party. Their choice was to remain silent and suffer, or to speak out and be carted off to a concentration camp. Such is the power of values. On the positive side, humanistic values can have the same powerful effect. They can mobilize people to work together constructively for a beneficial purpose.

The team leader must take the steps necessary to define the values of the group. This is best accomplished through discussion among the team. It is as simple as asking the question “How do we believe we should act in both good and bad circumstances, toward one another, and within our institution?” Examples of values often identified include integrity or honesty, creativity, caring or empathy, loyalty, and initiative.

As a team leader, how well do you score in the values arena? The following questions can help establish your leadership quotient on this important element:

  1. What values does your department subscribe to and observe in everyday dealings with one another and others?
  2. Are these values formally stated as part of the department’s mission and vision?
  3. Are they used in evaluating the conduct or performance of every member of the department?
  4. Is honesty chief among the stated values? Does the pursuit of honesty, even in delicate and sensitive situations, promote trust and trustworthiness?


Every team leader must consistently and routinely communicate the mission, vision, and values of the organization. Studies show that every member of high-performing organizations not only can recite the mission, vision, and values, but also, and perhaps more important, understand how his or her job duties contribute to that mission and vision. Too often we leave it to others to communicate for us and do not see this responsibility as a vital part of our role as leaders. Leaders communicate well and often, in both words (verbal and written) and deeds.

  1. What’s your leadership quotient on the element of communication?
  2. How do you keep people informed?
  3. Do all members of the department understand their responsibility to communicate widely, constantly, and as accurately as possible?
  4. Does communication utilize multiple paths, including written, oral (in face-to-face and group settings), and by example?
  5. Is two-way communication encouraged?
  6. How do you publicize your mission, educate staff, orient new employees, and inform others of your mission?


The whole idea of teams of people working together is based on one simple fact: the combined knowledge, skills, and energy of a team can always outproduce that of any individual. To accomplish this feat, however, requires that the team leader actually promote conditions that allow each member of the team to excel at what they know or do best. The idea of granting this flexibility is the essence of empowerment. It is the idea behind Toyota’s redesign of the automobile assembly line, and it is the simple advice of a basketball coach to his team: if you are open, take the shot!

Things never go as planned. Dealing with the unexpected, or making midstream adjustments, cannot always be foreseen by the leader. Thus, any member of the team must be empowered to act in the best interests of the organization, and if in fact they are open, should take the shot.

Some people confuse empowerment with acceptance of poor performance. Empowered employees can act outside their normal job responsibilities in a way that is consistent with the values of the organization and can act in circumstances in which if they did not act the very mission and vision of the organization would be threatened, or a highly valued opportunity might be lost, even if they may not be successful. A poor performer acts in a manner that is inconsistent with the values of the organization and will cause harm to the mission and vision of the organization.

As a team leader, how do you empower? Answer these questions to get some idea:

  1. Do you encourage and promote employee and supervisory decision-making?
  2. Are employees urged to take initiative and recognized if they do?
  3. Do you hold employees accountable yet make their mistakes an opportunity to discover a better way or to enhance their knowledge?
  4. Do you encourage experimentation by actually implementing the ideas of others, even if they come from critics, “troublemakers,” or other nontraditional organizational sources?
  5. Do you actively promote discussion and implementation of changes that are directed toward accomplishing your organization’s mission and vision in all of your dealings with employees, customers, and employers?


Problems with leaders arise when they become corrupted in their thinking about their own importance. To lead is truly important. To be a leader is just a job. The question is whether you as a leader will do your job well or poorly. That is where an understanding of your own prejudices, traits, and frailties comes in. An understanding of oneself helps us avoid doing things that will interfere with the true purpose of leading that is, to encourage and motivate others to excel in the achievement of our organization’s mission and vision. If we are human, we all have these traits: a quick temper, perhaps, or a dislike of people with blue eyes, or our own low self-esteem, which tends to make us want to be the center of attention. It’s okay to have these feelings, but it is not okay to act on them. Knowing and recognizing how our tendencies can interfere with our success and our team’s success is vital to self-understanding and leadership.

Do you know “thyself”? Consider your leadership quotient in the arena of self-understanding:

  1. Do you personally believe in the department’s mission and its vision?
  2. Would you willingly follow someone else’s leadership toward fulfillment of the department’s mission?
  3. Do you understand and accept your own personality traits and tendencies?
  4. How might these traits and tendencies interfere with the success of the department, its vision, or empowerment of others?
  5. How are your listening and observation skills?
  6. Do you use them not only to effectively monitor the progress of others, but also to alert yourself to your own blind spots?
  7. Do you view your leadership role as that of a savior or a facilitator?

Leadership in the Institution, the Community and the Profession

Leadership by an entire management team helps develop the foundations for change in an organization. Team leaders help people overcome the fear of the unknown and the risks of deviating from tried-and-true methods. They create the conditions by which a group of people will pursue a new vision even though they individually may have doubts and fears. Without values, communication, empowerment, and self-understanding, the successful transition from one paradigm to the next will not be possible, regardless of the importance of the mission or the inspiration of the vision. One thing is certain: The road that facilities leaders must take to advance the mission of higher education is not going to be lined with cheering crowds and ticker-tape parades. Significant challenges are ahead, and change is not easy in the tradition-bound conservative institutions of higher education.

So, for the higher education facilities manager, team leadership is important not only within the facilities organization, but also within the higher education institution. Although the mission of most higher education institutions may have changed little since World War II, the environment in which these institutions operate has changed dramatically. As discussed earlier, the management of facilities is now technologically, economically, and legally complex. The consequences of missteps or incompetency are increasingly expensive, and it is difficult to recover from mistakes.

Unfortunately, administrative naiveté about these issues is alive and well on many college campuses. Far too many senior managers and college executives still view facilities as a “cost” and not as an investment. Then, if costs are truly excessive (likely caused by bureaucracy, overregulation, monument-building architects, crooked contractors, or incompetent and lazy managers), few of these administrators understand or even acknowledge their role in creating this situation. Even when costs are not excessive, most executives fail to grasp the factors that do make college buildings expensive to build and maintain.

Who will educate and inform higher education’s senior leadership on the realities of being a large property owner? Who will interpret the college or university’s mission in facilities terms and requirements? Who will define and analyze the facilities issues that the institution must face to achieve its goals? Who will develop and recommend facilities strategies? The dean of the medical school? The business officer? The student affairs officer?

Leadership in facilities management cannot stop within the facilities organization. Higher education’s officers and governing board members have a real need to learn how to effectively manage and utilize their institution’s facilities. Helping them satisfy this need can only come from the chief facilities officer and those who are responsible for facilities management.

Institutional team leadership, in the facilities context, however, is more than just being an advocate for facilities or being the “facilities specialist.” In a broader sense, it is helping the institution attain its mission and vision through the most effective deployment of facilities resources. To accomplish this, the facilities leader must be perceived as pursuing the institution’s mission and vision as his or her first priority and not solely as an advocate for facilities. This is a much different role than just pursuing the interest of facilities, independent of other considerations or factors critical to the success of the institution. Again, the following questions can help isolate the critical elements of this leadership responsibility:

  1. Given your institution’s mission, what facilities are required to accomplish this mission now? Five years from now? Ten years from now?
  2. In the interest of maximizing scarce resources, what is the minimum level of facilities quality required to accomplish the institution’s mission and its vision?
  3. How can facilities needs be met through better scheduling, minor adaptations, or simple changes in use?
  4. How can your institution comply with regulations with minimum capital investment?
  5. Can other institutional needs be met through better use of facilities assets?
  6. What is the full range of options available to meet institutional mission or vision, including no new facilities investment solutions?
  7. What are the long-term financial implications of each facilities decision? Master plan implications? Land-use implications? Impact on other programs or facilities? Other opportunity costs?
  8. How can you tailor facilities and support services to best respond to unique institutional and programmatic requirements or priorities?
  9. What is the best way economically to provide for these facilities and service requirements?
  10. Do you routinely talk to groups of students, faculty, and administrators and educate others about how facilities can be best used to further the institution’s mission?
  11. Is the institutional leadership aware of the major facilities management capabilities of your organization? Do they receive periodic reports on the state of operations, progress on projects, management initiatives, or information on major issues facing the institution?
  12. Do they understand the full costs of owning and operating the institution’s facilities? Are facilities costs benchmarked to other external sources by which both efficiencies and deficiencies can be gauged? Do they receive realistic cost information and budgetary proposals so they can make meaningful decisions?

The effective utilization of facilities assets is not well understood by most higher education facilities managers. Facilities decisions in the future must be based on maximizing asset contribution to the institutional mission. The facilities leader must not only be patient, but also persistent in getting newer concepts and views introduced into management practice. Initially, that leadership role will be one of education, example, and experimentation. As knowledge of more modern asset management practices emerges in higher education, the leadership role eventually will evolve into membership in the strategy-setting and decision-making processes of the institution. To accomplish this, facilities managers will need executive-level skills in communication, planning, and decision-making.

Improvement in higher education facilities management practices will be difficult to achieve without broadly researching, testing, and communicating the results of such efforts. Improvement will require the efforts of many people who are themselves dedicated to the important mission of knowledge and education. Thus, we come to the final dimension of team leadership in facilities management: leadership within the profession of facilities management.

Leadership within one’s profession is made up of three components. The first and most fundamental component resides in one’s personal values, which lead to the pursuit of ethical conduct. Ethics and integrity are the cornerstones of professional life and are essential to the establishment of credibility and trust. Without these, a leader’s influence over people is short lived, if it is even possible. The second component is contributing to one’s own community. Whether this is involvement in service organizations, one’s church, or public office, the outcome of such activity should be directed toward promoting the good of the community and improving the quality of individual lives. Can anyone lead others without having a deeply held desire to improve the lives of people, as evidenced by actions, not just words? The third and final component is making a contribution to one’s own profession. This means making a continual effort to improve facilities management practices and to disseminate knowledge of these practices. Such contributions may take many forms, but one important way to contribute is through participation in a professional organization such as APPA: The Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers.

All professions continually attempt to expand and teach knowledge that is specific to their occupation. Such activities are vital to facilities management because of the enormous need to develop improved and, in some cases, radically new methods and management concepts. To do this, professional team leadership can be exercised at any type of institution and at any level in the facilities organization. Even small improvements eventually attain significance. All members of the profession can participate and provide valuable information in testing improvements and communicating their results to others.



In this chapter, we discussed the evolution of facilities management in higher education and the dramatic changes that may occur in the twenty-first century. These changes are driven by a number of factors, including the quickening pace of technological advances, the increasing complexity of regulatory compliance, the ever-increasing costs of operations, and the diminished capital resources available to colleges and universities for reinvestment in facilities and equipment. At the same time, the importance of facilities to the future success of higher education has never been greater. The quality of facilities not only directly affects the quality of education and research, but also influences the decision by students to attend an institution and by benefactors to bestow their appropriations, gifts, and grants.

In this setting, the meaning of leadership was explained along with its six essential elements of mission, vision, values, communication, empowerment, and self-understanding. All leaders of organizations must have a defined mission and a vision of success. The vision must be something that is worthy, attainable, and sharable with others. How a vision is accepted and acted on is determined by the values commonly shared within the organization, the most important being those of trust and trustworthiness. The vision, values, and team member roles should be communicated well and descriptively to all sectors of the organization so that they can be widely understood. Individuals and groups of people should be empowered to act independently but in a coordinated fashion. Finally, leaders must have a good understanding of their own attitudes, prejudices, or predisposition that inadvertently could corrupt the pursuit of the organization’s mission and vision.

A series of questions were presented that can be used to define the level of practice of leadership within each of the six essential elements. The answers to these questions can help managers determine the areas in which they are presently providing the necessary leadership and those in which they might further develop their leadership in the future. If they answer each question thoughtfully, managers should have a comprehensive list of (1) areas they have developed, (2) areas they need to develop, and (3) areas that have been addressed but that need additional improvement. This inventory of leadership activities can now be developed into a personal plan for leadership. Using the questions, readers can identify the areas they must develop to effectively lead in facilities management.

The profession of higher education facilities management includes many fine examples of leadership. Over the years, facilities managers such as George Weber, who published the first manual on higher education facilities management, and Harvey Kaiser, who alerted facilities managers to the emerging deferred maintenance problem, have provided important leadership in the development of higher education facilities practices. They are joined by countless others who have made equally important, albeit less visible, contributions to the improvement of their institutions and communities. All of these leaders in the field had a vision and values, communicated well and often, empowered others, and understood their own strengths and limitations. These facilities managers are living proof that leadership is not mystical, but rather is a decision—a decision that what one is doing is important and worthy of the required effort. This chapter has identified critical elements in the leadership of facilities in higher education. What cannot be provided in this text is the decision to lead. That decision is personal.

Leadership in facilities has never been so vital. It is vital to the facilities organization if it is to meet the challenges that lie ahead; it is vital to the college or university if it is to continue to provide quality and affordable education; and it is vital to all of us if we are to continue to improve the human condition. This is no small undertaking, but addressing these needs begins with one simple decision to lead: yours.




  1. Rosovsky, Henry. The University. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1990, p. 255.
  2. Noer, David M. Healing the Wounds. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993, p. 190.
  3. Bennis, Warren. Why Leaders Can’t Lead. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1994, p. 18.
  4. Covey, Stephen R. Principle-Centered Leadership. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
  5. Southwest Airlines. The Book On Service, 1993.
  6. Covey, Stephen R. Principle-Centered Leadership. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
  7. Noer, David M. Healing the Wounds. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993, p. 195
  8. Lencioni, Patrick, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002
  9. B’Hahn, Carmella, “Be the change you wish to see: An interview with Arun Gandhi”, Reclaiming Children and Youth [Bloomington] Vol. 10, No. 1 (Spring 2001) p. 6.

Additional Resources

  • Anderson, R. J. and Adams, W. A.  Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015
  • Badaracco, Joseph L., Jr. Questions of Character: Illuminating the Heart of Leadership Through Literature. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2006.
  • Bennis, W. On Becoming A Leader. Reading, Massachusetts: Perseus Books, 1989
  • Daigneau, William A. Product-Process-People: The Principles of High Performance Management. Alexandria, VA: APPA, 2016
  • Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. How Do Students Choose a College? Survey Report. New York: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1984.
  • Cartwright, T. J. “Planning And Chaos Theory.” APA Journal 57 (Winter 1991): 44-56.
  • Essame, H. Patton: A Study in Command. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1974.
  • HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Leadership, Harvard Business Press Books, 2011
  • Howard, Robert. “Values Make the Company: An Interview with Robert Haas.” Harvard Business Review 69 (September-October 1990): 133-144.
  • Peters, Tom, and Robert H. Waterman, Jr. In Search of Excellence. New York: Warner Books, 1984.
  • Reed, Richard. If I Could Tell you just One Thing… San Francisco: Chronicle Books LLC, 2018
  • Rezvani, Selena. The Next Generation of Women Leaders: What You Need to Lead but Won’t Learn in Business School. Santa Barbara, Calif: Praeger, 2010.
  • Sandberg, Sheryl. Lean In: Women Work and the Will to Lead. Knopf, 2013
  • Senge, Peter. The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization. New York: Doubleday/Currency, 1990.

Thaler, R. and Sunstein, C. Nudge. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2008

Wheatley, Margaret J. Leadership and the New Science. San Francisco: Berrett Koehler Publishers, 1992.

Leave a Reply