The term "commercial real estate leader" tends to evoke an image of a seasoned industry veteran, almost certainly male and most likely Caucasian. Developing Leaders — NAIOP members age 35 and under — are taking that image and turning it upside down by stepping into prime leadership roles within the association, proving that traditional isn’t always the answer.
So, what’s it like to manage commercial real estate professionals who are mostly older than you? "It’s an interesting dynamic that challenges you in many respects," said Erica- Nicole Harris, project manager with WISPARK LLC in Milwaukee, Wis., co-chair of NAIOP’s DL Diversity Task Force and member of NAIOP’s Corporate Board of Directors. "I’ve learned that acknowledging people’s contributions, asking for their advice and engaging my audience in small talk prior to getting down to business makes a difference in how people respond."
John Martin, director of business development with ECS Carolinas LLP in Greensboro, N.C., NAIOP North Carolina Piedmont Triad Chapter president and 2008 DL Award recipient, has found that a genuine attitude is the golden ticket. "I believe that it’s important to always be mindful of your approach when leading others. A genuine, confident position gains people’s respect and brings value to the table. People appreciate that from their leaders."
Being an effective leader means more than business accomplishments, it includes balance and prioritizing between professional and personal demands. "Having a strong support network both at home and in the workplace is key for me to be able to take on more responsibility and keep all the balls in the air while living a gratifying life," reflects Jeanette Meyers, vice president with Veenendaal Inc. in Atlanta, Ga., NAIOP Georgia Board of Directors and National Forums member. "I believe the concept of work-life balance is more the norm and a larger focus for my generation versus older generations. We have had to pave the way for leading a balanced life."
Achieving balance is easier said than done and many of the DL leaders rely on classic strategies, and some newer tools, to make that happen. Lists, open communication, organization and efficient multi-tasking were all exercises they stressed as essential for effective leadership. In addition, taking advantage of useful technology sets you apart. PDA devices, such as a Blackberry, can streamline planning and prioritizing and keep DL’s connected in all aspects of their lives.
Leadership responsibility at a young age in a veteran-dominated industry doesn’t come without its obstacles. "Of course there have been hiccups here and there," says Meyers. "But holding true to myself, being open minded and flexible, and really pushing my limits are the best inner resources in my toolbox to bring me continued success." Martin echoes the same advice, "To empower yourself, you have to empower the people around you. I’m not afraid to ask for help and I know when it’s time to back off and not micromanage. It comes down to trusting yourself and your people."
To learn more about NAIOP’s DL program, visit the dedicated DL Web site.