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Developing effective 4IR leadership framework for construction organisations

Kehinde Alade (Construction Economics and Management, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa) (Federal University of Technology Akure, Akure, Nigeria)
Abimbola Olukemi Windapo (Construction Economics and Management, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 25 November 2020

Issue publication date: 10 June 2021

1076

Abstract

Purpose

Globally, the business organisations are experiencing a transformation due to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The need for an effective 4IR leadership has placed new demands on organisations to develop and select leaders to effectively lead the organisations in the 4IR era. Hence, it becomes important to understand the attributes for an effective 4IR leadership. This study examines the relationships between leadership styles, leadership traits, leadership intelligence and effective 4IR leadership to empirically validate the effective 4IR leadership framework that was conceptualised. The hypothesised relationships from the framework were tested using a survey of 416 senior construction executives across the nine provinces of South Africa.

Design/methodology/approach

To achieve the study objectives, an online survey was sent to construction firms across the nine provinces of South Africa. “Construction”, for the purpose of this study comprised building and civil engineering firms listed on the construction industry development board (cidb) register of contractors in South Africa. The target group was the upper echelon executives, i.e. Chairman, CEOs, managing directors and chief operating officers, and the survey was directed to contact e-mail of the study samples. The professional service providers (architects, consultants and surveyors) were not part of the survey sample. The database of the organisational leaders was obtained from the cidb. The online survey was created on the 23rd of August 2019 and closed on the 23rd of April 2020, thereby making the duration of the survey eight months. The total number of respondents at the time of closure of the survey was four hundred and sixteen (416). Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used for the analysis of the results.

Findings

This study validates the effective 4IR leadership framework as proposed by Alade and Windapo (2019) by empirically examining relationships between leadership styles, leadership traits, leadership intelligence and effective 4IR leadership. The findings from this study have shown that effective 4IR leadership is positively associated with leadership styles, leadership traits and leadership intelligence. Hence, an effective 4IR leader must spread the knowledge and understanding of the 4IR opportunities and threats in the organisations. The leader must ensure that the executives in the construction organisation become change conversant and ensure that the employees acquire 4IR skills. Multiple leadership intelligence is essential to effective 4IR leadership. These multiple intelligence are the ability to adapt knowledge and skills to different situations, ability to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously, a high level of understanding, ability to process and analyse information and ability to utilise knowledge from many disciplinary boundaries.

Research limitations/implications

This study is focused on construction business organisations in South Africa. As such, similar studies on 4IR leadership effectiveness can be carried out in other countries and across other organisations. Future studies should also consider using a case study approach specifically focused on organisations with high implementations of 4IR technologies. Interacting with the leaders of such organisations and their employees will give a broader perspective in understanding the reasons of their effectiveness.

Practical implications

The leadership of construction organisations must partner with the academia, industry players and team members in their efforts to implement 4IR in their organisations. Also, the existence of a positive association between leadership traits and effective 4IR leadership implies that to ensure a 4IR-driven work process in construction organisations, the leadership must embrace disruption and quickly respond to change. Further, it can be concluded from the findings of this study that appropriate leadership styles are required for effective 4IR leadership. The appropriate leadership style for effective 4IR leadership requires the leadership of construction organisations to delegate some of the 4IR function. The 4IR function must be performed based on the challenges that are associated with 4IR. The positive correlation between leadership intelligence and leadership styles makes it possible to conclude that the competencies of leadership of construction organisations in a 4IR-driven change depend on the level of leadership intelligence of the executives of construction organisations. It is evident that 4IR will change the business environment; hence, leadership intelligence is required to adapt construction organisations to the change dynamics. This study has provided information on what 4IR leadership entails in construction organisations. The study has contributed a framework for ensuring effective and smooth flow 4IR implementation in construction organisations through a purposeful leadership that combines leadership styles, leadership traits and leadership intelligence.

Social implications

This research will be useful to government agencies and board members of construction organisations, in appointing leaders to see the construction industry and organisations perform better in the 4IR era. Young individuals who are also aspiring to take on leadership role in the industry will benefit from this study.

Originality/value

This study is a new and original research that seeks to investigate the need for an effective 4IR leadership in construction business organisations. Construction as an industry is usually criticised for her slow response to change. Since leadership is required to drive the change agenda, this study examines the relationships between leadership styles, leadership traits, leadership intelligence and effective 4IR leadership to empirically validate the effective 4IR leadership framework that was conceptualised.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Authors would like to thank the construction industry development board (cidb) for allowing access to their database for the study. Further, this work was supported by NRF (Grant Number-120843), TETFUND and UCT WUN-ARUA. Opinions expressed and conclusions arrived at, are those of the authors and are not necessarily to be attributed to the NRF, TETFUND or UCT WUN-ARUA.

Citation

Alade, K. and Windapo, A.O. (2021), "Developing effective 4IR leadership framework for construction organisations", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 28 No. 5, pp. 1377-1396. https://doi.org/10.1108/ECAM-07-2020-0576

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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