Building Official Leadership

As most of you know, being a building official and running a building department has its challenges. Sometimes it can be like trying to take a sip of water from a fire hydrant. You need to be at several places, all at the same time. You have to know everything about everything, all off the top of your head. I personally believe that being a building official, new or seasoned, is definitely one of the most challenging, yet satisfying careers out there.

As I said before, as a building official, you have to be “jack of all trades” and “master of ALL.” How does one person achieve such knowledge and skill, which allows them to meet this level of brilliance? In reality, it isn’t one person. It’s everyone you surround yourself with. I believe that being a great building official means being a great leader and a great follower. Being new to the profession, I am always listening to experienced people. Whether a building official, contractor, city manager, or custodian, everyone has something to offer.

Some of the best advice I received when I started my municipal career was to “surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. No matter their position. Take and learn everything you can.” I have always tried to do that, no matter how over my head I felt. Being involved with organizations such as BOAT and ICC chapters was one of the ways I was able to do that very thing. Here are some things I have learned along the way to help me improve as a leader and a building official.

Earn respect.

Leading by example involves an element of servant leadership. Throughout your career, you are taught to lead and be led. You train with your team, and you work with your team. Any good leader will make a point to acquire the best possible talent they can. That talent will thrive when you provide the necessary resources to succeed. I’ve seen people who were set up for failure in the past, and it’s a terrible thing to witness. But, if you work together with your team members and understand what they do every day, they will respect you for it. Respect will go a long way for fueling growth.

Take every opportunity to learn something new.

You should never assume you know everything. The minute you do, you’ve already failed. You should always be learning as much as you can from others who have paved the path for you. That is why relationships in this field are so important. Professional development for any leader is critical, so why not leverage the amazing talent you have and learn from them? If you’re leading the team, you need to get involved and soak up as much knowledge as you can. You’ll learn something new every single day, and you’ll be better informed when making strategic decisions.

Share the lessons you have learned.

On the flip side, part of the responsibility of someone in a leadership role is to give back through knowledge transfer. You are where you are by doing some things right. Be sure to pass along lessons learned so your team can avoid mistakes and excel. Nobody leads or learns in a vacuum.

Do better next time–make better decisions.

When you spend more time working directly with your team on various issues, you will have a better understanding of what each person’s skill sets are. You will be able to identify gaps, ensure people are in the right roles, and know when it’s time to adjust certain systems and processes. When running a department, you can become consumed with unlimited distractions. Don’t forget about the fuel that makes the department thrive: your team. Diving into the trenches and earning their respect will improve your ability to fulfill the organization’s ultimate vision.

This information is really just a small drop in a very, very…..very large bucket. To be a great leader and a great building official you must grow and learn daily from your own mistakes, as well as others.


Michael Beard, CBO, CFM
Director at Large, BOAT
Building Official, City of Harker Heights

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