To say that leadership is important in the real estate industry is a bit of an understatement. The panelists, including Anthony Chang of Cassidy Turley, Diana Reid of PNC, Marty Jones of MassDevelopment, Lynn Thurber of LaSalle Investment Management, and moderator Michael Horst of ULI, brought some wonderful insight and advice to a full room at this Thursday morning session at the ULI Fall Meeting in Denver.
Work today is much more interconnected and volatile, both within the real estate industry and without. Therefore, leadership and the ability to see around the corner are all the more critical. The ULI panelists who spoke today cited a mix of former bosses and political figures in history (Teddy Roosevelt as a strong executive and Ben Franklin as someone who could leverage those around him to get things done). They cite the ability to have vision, find tactics to pursue that vision and have the courage to actually move forward.
Technology can be valuable in the right context, like Skype, crowdsourcing, etc, but in some instances it can waste time or not produce a level of trust needed to seal the deal. Face to face contact is still important.
The generation gap came up as an interesting point of interest. Most of the panel was of the baby-boom generation, although one, Anthony Chang, was a Gen Xer, as am I. The generation between the millennials and the baby boomers are entering or approaching their peak earning years. We were trained and mentored by “pre-technology” boomers and are training and mentoring “post-technology” millennials, so we have a foot in both camps. Although we can bridge the gap between the two, nonetheless that gap exists. Boomers need to at least be aware of the power of technology and the expectations the millennials have of the workplace and their career aspirations. But, one panelist cautioned, millennials should not be treated any differently than other generations of workers. They need to understand the value of face-to-face deal-making and mentoring.
That said, having a mentor, be it formal or an informal netowrk of them, is very important as you are cutting your teeth in the industry.
One of the biggest missing opportunities for leaders and all professionals is a little down time to reflect, recharge and think about the future. Michael Horst commented that, at least while airlines didn’t offer wi-fi service, air travel was an excellent time to turn off and think critically. The altitude can help with this.
Lynn Thurber explained that women still have precious few role models in real estate. Just like in many industries, women have proven to be able to execute business transactions, but have had less opportunity to source business for the company. Men have it easier, she explained; they have the “locker room banter.” How do women get in to the locker room? I surmise deal-making will be replaced by something else over time, but deals will still be done in person and with a handshake, since that is timeless, at least according to these folks.
The leadership 4.0 session was very thought-provoking and much appreciated. Our society is in desperate need of good leadership, and ULI has a lot of great leaders to offer. I’m quite grateful for the exposure to many of these fine individuals. There is much to learn.
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