Views from the Top: Lessons for Tomorrow’s Leaders

26 Jun 2023


How can the built environment industry go from good to great? How can companies collaborate and innovate better? What roles do leaders play in advancing transformation in the Built Environment?

These were among the thought-provoking issues discussed in March at the iBuildSG LEAD Horizon Programme’s closing panel “Leadership Roles to Drive Impactful Change”. Held at the Singapore Management University, the Building and Construction Authority’s partner in the executive development programme, the two-hour fireside chat with the sector’s top brass offered future leaders the following takeaways:

1. Remember the COVID-19 experience: Collaborate to succeed

The COVID-19 pandemic was a sobering jolt. Stop-work orders, manpower constraints and raw material shortages severely disrupted the sector.

It was a wake-up call for the sector and a reminder that collaboration was key to survival. It was when the tyre hit the road, and everyone faced similar issues – whether as a regulator, consultant, developer, or builder. There was to be no passing of the buck since everyone was in the same boat.

This meant, for instance, that companies had to take off their organisational hats at the table to discuss various issues – such as giving advances to subcontractors who faced cash flow problems, as well as the phasing of the temporary occupation permit process. Yet, while projects were delayed, collaboration meant that the situation did not worsen.

Building on these experiences is vital. One-way partnerships can carry on beyond the pandemic is via collaborative contracting. An aspect of this model is arranging payments so that parties are financially motivated in a better way for the overall project. In other words, there is a pain-gain share.

2. Unite to excel: Taking Team Singapore to the world

Another aspect of collaboration is how companies here can pool resources and expertise to take on mega projects here and beyond.

This is especially crucial, given that the world is no longer standing still in terms of BE advancements. With the industry feeling the squeeze from structural factors like labour crunch, climate change and geopolitical turmoil, BE firms should partner one another to create more opportunities – not just locally but globally too. This may mean even competitors can work together.

Working collaboratively

3. Plug the competency and professionalism gap

While BCA has a regulatory role, it also plays a vital part in developing the industry to foster more collaboration and innovation.

There are also efforts made in improving the technical ability and professionalism of regulators so that they better understand the constraints faced by the industry when project approvals are required.

This upskilling is not limited to the regulatory side. The BCA Academy was set up to uplift the capabilities of the industry as a whole, boosting managerial and technical competencies across BE sub-sectors.

4. Develop an edge with constant innovation

When it comes to organisational innovation, no one has a monopoly on good ideas. Rather, it is important to have a mindset of experimenting and a culture of openness, which can be developed through efforts such as hosting innovation challenges and supporting start-ups in solving sustainability issues.

Initiatives such as BCA’s Built Environment Accelerate to Market Programme (BEAMP), which supports companies in areas such as automation and robotics, also create an environment where creativity thrives. Another approach is to de-risk innovation as an ecosystem: industry leaders should foster a supportive culture instead of having knee-jerk reactions when things do not turn out as expected.

CORENET X, an integrated portal for regulatory approval, is also an example of innovation – not just of technological progress but in the collaboration sphere. With it, multiple government agencies can assess industry submissions, thus streamlining the process simultaneously.

5. Develop an open mind and humble heart

McKinsey research shows that today’s top American companies, known as S&P 500, have a lifespan of less than 20 years. This means that leaders must be innovative and drive organisational change for business longevity.

Participants also came away with this takeaway on leadership: Have an open mind and humble heart, stay curious, and adapt fast.

The iBuildSG LEAD Horizon Programme is for young emerging leaders in the BE sector nominated by their companies. It aims to build personal effectiveness, cultivate better commercial awareness and a more innovative mindset towards new ideas and digital technologies.


The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) champions the development and transformation of the built environment sector, in order to improve Singapore’s living environment. BCA oversees areas such as safety, quality, inclusiveness, sustainability and productivity, all of which, together with our stakeholders and partners, help to achieve our mission to transform the Built Environment sector and shape a liveable and smart built environment for Singapore.