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Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership

My Leadership Development So Far

  • Adam Budd
  • |
  • Jun 10, 2016
My Leadership Development So Far

About the Author:  Adam Budd is an Operations Manager with Aecon Utilities.  He joined Aecon in 2009 and was selected to participate in their Future Leaders Program.  His graduation speech from FLP reflects on his own leadership growth and the similarities he sees between leadership development and sedimentary rock formation.

Good afternoon everyone, I am Adam Budd and I would like to talk today about my leadership development at Aecon so far and how the Future Leaders Program course has tied into it. I started at Aecon as a Project Coordinator but I will jump right to when my leadership development really began.  It was when my boss and mentor moved to a new role and I was promoted to fill his position. 

The position was Manager of a Utilities yard overseeing approximately 100 staff.  Under my boss’s leadership, we were a successful yard with strong safety performance and profitability.  Unfortunately, it did not take long under my leadership for the success to erode.  We started to experience more frequent and significant safety incidents as well as financial losses.  With this decreasing performance, the pressure on me started to build; it felt like a snowball gaining speed and size with every week.  On my morning drives into work I would often feel so sick that I thought I would have to pull over and throw up before getting to work.  I received a new company truck with the position and I remember measuring my ability to survive in kilometres.  I didn’t know if I would make it to see the odometer turn to 10,000km.  I thought seeing 30,000km would be a major milestone. I figured there was no hope I would make it to return the truck in three years. 

Around this time I was enrolled in the Future Leaders Program course and attended the first session.  I would love to say that I attended my first session and came out a new man with no issues since, but I can’t.  What I can say is the combination of this course and the support of people around me helped me to push through and develop my leadership skills faster. 

One of the biggest lessons for me was learning about myself and the importance of defining my leadership brand.  My brand is hardworking, fair and accountable.  The skill of gaining commitment is one that sticks out as important. I use all of these competencies on a daily basis to gain buy in and get people moving in the same direction. 

One of my favorite lessons involved the movie Rudy. It was used in discussion to emphasize the importance of focusing on your strengths more than weaknesses.  I believe that was one of my biggest problems in the beginning.  With the pressure building, all I could do was focus on my weaknesses and I was not confident in my leadership ability because of it. 

To continue my story, a manager was eventually brought in above me which gave me the support and ability to continue to develop my skills with reduced pressure.  About one year ago today, I was given another opportunity to lead a Utilities yard.  I moved to a new yard which was described as one of the worst performing because of poor safety and financial performance.  I am very proud to say that under my leadership we are now a top performing yard with strong safety and financial performance.  I have also turned in my first truck and I am 29,000km into my second.

The artifact I brought today to illustrate my leadership lesson is a sedimentary rock as I see it as a metaphor for how leadership skills are developed.  Each layer in a sedimentary rock is created through pressure, discomfort and stress.  I believe leadership skills are developed the same way.  On any given day we are faced with situations that cause us stress, pressure and discomfort.  We have the opportunity to try and avoid them, just do enough to say we did something, or face them head on giving our best effort and seeing them through.  Every time we face one of these situations head on we form a layer on our leadership development. Overtime, as we have more experiences the layers pile onto one another and we grow into more effective leaders.