Is there a leadership deficit in architecture?
I contend that there is.
It’s something I’ve been contemplating of late. In a recent conversation with my colleague, Melonie Bayl-Smith, she observed that people seem to be more willing to throw money at an issue, rather than actually do something about it themselves. She noted parents were willingly paying a coach for their child’s football team, rather than taking on the role themselves. We wondered, is the same attitude manifest in the profession? Are architects paying membership fees to their representative institutions, in part, to absolve themselves from leadership responsibility?
“The Electric Monk was a labour-saving device, like a dishwasher or a video recorder… Electric Monks believed things for you, thus saving you what was becoming an increasingly onerous task, that of believing all the things the world expected you to believe.”
Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
It’s easy to outsource these days.
It’s easy to justify the outsourcing in today’s supposedly time poor world.
It’s a straightforward story to tell yourself.
I don’t have time.
I don’t have the ability.
I don’t have the status or position.
It’s easier to complain about someone else’s leadership failures than it is to take on the responsibility yourself. So people pay up and stand down.
The problem is that architecture is not a profession that is easily or best led from the front. It needs to be led at all levels. There are of course different areas of leadership and I concede that in the quality of built work, design leadership in architecture is unparalleled. When it comes to professional leadership, however, leading and representing the profession in public broadly, leading professional conduct and principals, the leadership within architecture is insubstantial.
Professional institutions do their best with their limited resources, but frankly it’s not enough. It’s not enough and that is not the fault of these bodies, it is the fault of a profession that has failed to lead itself.
The interesting thing about leadership is that it’s a choice. Leaders take responsibility, they choose to lead. They don’t outsource.