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Lydia Kennard: A Dexterous Leader Managing Multi-Billion Public Infrastructure Programs

Lydia Kennard | KDG Construction Consulting

Mirror Review recently had an interesting chat with Lydia H. Kennard, the CEO of KDG Construction Consulting. By answering a set of interesting questions, she shared her opinions on the importance of being a good leader. Through her answers, she beautifully unfolded her journey towards building the leading company while handling the workforce. Sharing her thoughts on leadership, Lydia says, “I believe that an ideal leader is one who is collaborative and respectful of the ideas and opinions of others.

Lydia believes that the notion of ‘good’ leadership is always relative to the need and hence, there cannot be a single ideal leader. She feels that there is a specific theme to good leaders that all must follow like, be decisive when needed and always take responsibility for failures caused due to his/her decisions. Furthermore, she said that being an ideal leader means to share the victories with the fellow teammates and not take complete credit for successes made on the basis of sound decisions. As it has famously quoted, “A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” Being highly inspired by this quote, Lydia is leading the orchestra and providing the best to her clients, but how? Here are the excerpts:

Work Smarter, Not Harder

What are the qualities of a good leader?

I think leading by example is the core of good leadership. Therefore, I would say that an ideal leader must be smart and hardworking at the same time. To add further, a leader should be always prepared for the forthcoming challenges or events and must have good people’s skills, praising when deserved and providing constructive criticism when warranted. Moreover, the most important quality is that a leader should be clear communicator. A leader who provides confusing direction could be in danger of blurring the teams’ vision, which could impact achievement of the goal. Therefore, I always recommend to stay focused on the end objective instead of micromanaging through the process.

Quote | Lydia H. Kennard | KDG Construction Consulting

Rowing through the Challenges

As a leader, what are the challenges you face and how do you conquer them?

We can say, anyone can handle the helm when the sea is calm but the real deal is to lead through the storm of challenges and deliver excellent results. Being a leader becomes difficult during the blizzard of challenges and handling them is what will define you as an excellent leader. As a woman, I have been trained to build consensus. Having spent an ample amount of time in the male-dominated construction industry, experience has been a great teacher to me. I have learned that I must frequently take charge and make the hard decisions. Moreover, my decisions would be responsible for the results, so I know I must take full responsibility and be prepared for the outcomes.

Team Working Independently, in Unison towards One Goal

What is the importance of a team for a leader, and how important is your team for you?

Your question reminded me of an incident that I feel I should share. When I was in charge of the airport system in Los Angeles (Los Angeles World Airports), I managed nearly 3,000 people. These staff members were a diverse group of government employees, which included highly trained lawyers and managers, construction tradesmen, police officers, janitors, and operations personnel, among others.  I had to respect and inspire them daily. I was head of this system, which included Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), during 9/11. What it taught me was that a good leader must command loyalty and commitment, especially in the time of a crisis. I was fortunate that everyone, at every level, supported our efforts to recover from this catastrophic event, which for the airport system lasted for years. It also changed the way in which our airports, and all airports throughout the world, handled the safety and security of passengers, employees, and visitors.

I feel that this incident would have depicted the need for a great team. Having a brilliant leader is good, but having a great team is a blessing. No matter what, teamwork is the key to success. My current team is the best to work with, and in addition, has remarkable skill sets. The team is comprised of people from many generations, which brings a specific type of energy to the work environment and helps to deliver excellent results.

Providing Technical Support to Owners in the Constructional Process

How will you define KDG Construction Consulting and its unique differentiating quality?

Today, KDG is a well-established construction management firm which will celebrate its 40th year in business next year. We provide technical support to public and institutional owners throughout the construction process. We represent owners, typically working on large, multi-year infrastructure programs. My firm’s success largely depends on our highly trained professionals and I proud to lead this amazing team of engineers, architects, and construction managers.

The unique differentiator of KDG is that we are a mid-sized firm by industry standards. The benefit of being mid-sized is that we can successfully compete with smaller firms as well as large, multi-national firms. Our uniqueness lies on the fact that we are large enough to have a sophisticated and well-developed financial and administrative platform yet we remain right-sized to provide strong personalized senior-level engagement with our clients.

Making the Most of the Inevitable Change

What effect would the future technologies bring to your venture over the next decade? 

To be optimistic about change, I feel there will inevitably be new technologies that may affect our business both negatively and positively. As a firm, we stay in-sync with the tech trends and changing industry landscape so that our skills and firm will remain relevant and successful over the long haul.

Education is a Great Equalizer

What is the one change you wish to implement in the world?

I believe that education is a great equalizer. I was lucky and privileged to have amazing parents and grandparents who believed in the power education and worked hard to enable me to attend some of the finest academic institutions in the world. However, today, many are still deprived of a quality education. Therefore, to fill this gap, I dedicate a significant amount of my personal time and financial resources towards ensuring that less fortunate students can have the same advantage of a strong educational background as I have had.