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Strength in Leadership
Lessons from a Women-Owned Small Business

By Emily Primeaux
dragonfly editorial
During my career, I’ve had the privilege of working in diverse environments across the U.S., Ireland, and Gibraltar, spanning industries such as nonprofit/international development, finance, and anti-fraud education. However, none have exemplified leadership quite like the women-owned small business where I currently work. At Dragonfly Editorial, I’ve witnessed firsthand the profound impact of strong, effective leadership on organizational success.
Over the past two years at Dragonfly, we’ve seen 58% growth and an extraordinarily low turnover rate. This stability and growth are not coincidental; they are the direct result of our leadership’s commitment to fostering a strong culture that values diversity, humanity, and collaboration.

Addressing Today’s Business Challenges

No company is immune to business challenges. Despite our successes at Dragonfly, the speed at which we’ve grown means our top management has had to stay flexible while implementing new processes. In any industry and at companies of any size, leadership sets the tone for how its people handle significant changes or challenges.
Specifically in the A/E/C industry, challenges can include the following:

Succession planning:
When a seasoned leader retires, the continuity and sustainability of the company is disrupted without effective succession planning.
Poor communication:
Misunderstandings and project delays arise when communication within teams and across departments is lacking.
Leadership silos:
Isolated leadership silos hinder collaboration and innovation, preventing the company from reaching its full potential.
Diverse leadership styles:
If diverse leadership styles are not harmonized, a management team is less cohesive and effective.
Constant change:
The A/E/C industry is continually evolving, with new technologies, regulations, and market conditions requiring leaders to be adaptable and forward-thinking.

Finding the Right Leadership Model

At Dragonfly, we’ve adopted the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) as our framework for managing and optimizing business operations. This model has fostered a culture of accountability and continuous improvement. Healthy debate is encouraged, but it’s always constructive and aimed at finding solutions. This environment of open communication and strategic problem-solving has been instrumental in driving our success.
Central to our leadership approach are our six core values, which guide our internal operations, our client interactions, and even our performance reviews at the end of the year. We consistently reinforce these values in our monthly staff meetings and make it a point to recognize our staff’s good work daily. According to Harvard Business Review, 69% of employees say they would work harder if they felt their efforts were being better recognized.
While EOS has worked exceptionally well for us as a small business, the key takeaway for any organization, including those in the A/E/C industry, is to find a model that aligns with its specific needs and goals. Identify the principles and practices that will help your organization address its unique challenges and achieve its objectives.

Translating Leadership to the A/E/C Industry

My experiences on the leadership team at Dragonfly Editorial have shown me that the principles we follow can be adapted to other sectors. Here are some practical tips and takeaways for A/E/C leaders looking to enhance their leadership effectiveness:
1. Adopt a clear vision and communicate it: Just as EOS emphasizes the importance of a clear vision, A/E/C leaders should ensure that all team members understand and are aligned with the company’s goals. This clarity helps guide daily operations and long-term planning.
2. Foster a culture of accountability: A/E/C leaders can implement regular check-ins and clear performance metrics to ensure everyone is responsible for their contributions.
3. Encourage healthy debate: Constructive discussions lead to innovative solutions. Create an environment where team members feel comfortable voicing their ideas and concerns.
4. Implement structured problem-solving: To attain success and foster a collaborative culture, leaders should focus on setting clear, achievable targets and creating structured plans to reach them. This might involve regular meetings dedicated to resolving problems and tracking progress on action items.
5. Invest in people: One of the reasons for our low turnover is our leadership’s commitment to employee development, celebrating their successes, and supporting their well-being. This happens by prioritizing training and mentorship and creating a supportive work environment to retain top talent.
6. Reinforce core values: Just as our agency consistently highlights our core values, leaders in any industry should ensure their company’s values guide all aspects of the business. This reinforcement can be achieved through daily recognition of exemplary work.
7. Manage stress and volatility: Leaders should be equipped to handle the stress that comes with a constantly changing business environment. This includes having strategies in place, like conducting rapid response meetings, to adapt quickly to new circumstances and maintaining a resilient mindset.

Leadership in A/E/C: The Bigger Picture

Effective leadership not only drives company success but also influences the broader community. Strong leaders inspire teams to achieve excellence in their projects, contributing to safer, more innovative, and more sustainably built environments. According to a Thomas Griffin report on the most relevant leadership statistics from recent years, companies that embrace a more inclusive approach to leadership training and development across all levels are 4.2 times more likely to outperform those that restrict leadership development to just management roles.
Additionally, companies are 3.4 times more likely to be rated a best place to work if they employ people-forward talent practices, implement a standardized leadership model across the organization, focus on promoting leaders internally, and offer high-quality development opportunities across all levels. As seasoned professionals retire, there’s a growing need for new leaders to step up. Investing in leadership training programs and succession planning ensures that the industry continues to thrive.
Working for a women-owned small business has provided me with invaluable insights into the power of strong leadership. By adopting models like EOS, reinforcing core values, encouraging healthy debate, and fostering a culture of accountability and continuous improvement, our agency has achieved significant growth and stability. These strategies not only highlight success for small businesses but also underscore the importance of adaptable and inclusive leadership in driving sustained progress for organizations of any size or industry.

Emily Primeaux is the writing manager at Dragonfly Editorial where she and her team deliver clear and compelling outsourced content. Emily has experience across website content and magazine development, magazine production, marketing communications, and thought leadership. She has built her career interviewing subject matter experts such as Theranos whistleblower Tyler Shultz, former Enron CFO and convicted fraudster Andrew Fastow, and the DEA agents behind the hit Netflix show “Narcos.” She writes long-form articles, thought leadership, profiles, case studies, and white papers on a multitude of topics, such as fraud, finance, compliance and governance, technology, and accounting and auditing.
Contact Emily at emily@dragonfly