Say you feel the process for selecting the next leader of more than 1 million real estate professionals is less than transparent. Are you going to sit by and grumble or do something about it? Sunny Lake, a managing broker at eXp Realty, chose the latter.

  • A real estate broker has started a Facebook group called "NAR Girl Boss 2017" that will profile female leaders in the industry.
  • The broker started the group due to concerns about the transparency of the process of selecting NAR's next CEO, including rumors of an "heir apparent."
  • NAR declined to say whether there was any truth to the rumor and said it was focused on finding the "best qualified candidate."

Say you feel the process for selecting the next leader of more than 1 million real estate professionals is less than transparent.

Are you going to sit by and grumble or do something about it?

Sunny Lake, a managing broker at eXp Realty, chose the latter. As a member of the National Association of Realtors, she wants to make sure the trade group’s next CEO represents its membership — 62 percent of all Realtors are female — and is prepared to lead its members through a changing industry.

She’s launched a Facebook group called “NAR Girl Boss 2017“, a Twitter account (@NARGirlBoss) and an Instagram account (@nargirlboss) to feature profiles of powerful women in the real estate industry. A website, nargirlboss.com, is also in the offing.

Eleven CEOs have served NAR since its founding in 1908. All of them have been men. The trade group has said that it will choose the “most qualified” candidate for the CEO position “regardless of gender” to replace Dale Stinton upon his retirement at 2017’s end, which Lake said she thought was “smart.”

“But I just want to make sure that they’re actually taking a look at some of the awesome women we have in this industry,” she told Inman in an interview.

“I don’t think it has to be a woman, but …. someone to represent their client base is pretty wise. When all the other leaders have been men, that’s something to look at.”

NAR Girl Boss Facebook page

Who’s in the group?

Lake started the group in mid-January and began ramping it up last week. It’s a closed group, so people have to be approved to join and see posts, but membership about doubled over the weekend and rose to 657 members as of Tuesday morning.

Many of them are prominent members of the industry, male and female, and include Realtor leaders such as Chris Polychron, NAR’s 2015 president and chair of the member search committee that will help choose the next CEO.

Lake chose the Facebook group’s moniker after reading the book #GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruso.

Sunny Lake

“I’m really all about trying to get women to embrace their power, but also their femininity. We can lead and also be vulnerable,” she said.

Women can lead with their “whole selves,” she added.

“We can lead with our hearts and our brains and our vulnerability. A lot of women think you have to be a bitch to be a leader, but you don’t have to be.”

An ‘heir apparent’?

Lake started the Facebook group because she was hearing so much “behind the scenes” chatter that NAR had already chosen an “heir apparent” to succeed Dale Stinton as CEO — NAR Senior Vice President Bob Goldberg — and that the publicized search was “just for show,” Lake said.

Bob Goldberg

“The constituents should have a say. Especially since most of the people that this person is going to lead are women … where’s our voice? If they’re just tapping Dale Stinton 2.0., that needs to be examined,” she said.

NAR appointed Stinton as CEO in November 2005, and he’s served the association for 36 years.

“Maybe I’m poking a bear and maybe I’m going to get in a lot of trouble for this, but we’ll see,” Lake added.

When asked what effect she’s hoping to have on NAR, she said she hopes the trade group will consider the profiles she and other volunteers will write and share through the Facebook group.

“I just want them to be aware that people are watching the process because it’s such a big, important move,” she said.

“Because things are changing so quickly in real estate now, if we’ve got stagnation at the top, we’re not going to be able to make the changes that we need to serve our clients.

“If we’re going to actually be serving clients and actually be serving the industry and protecting homeowners’ rights and protecting Realtors’ ability to do their jobs … it’s not just a popularity contest, just kissing babies and shaking hands.

“It has to be someone who’s willing to do the work and looking to other industries and asking people for guidance.”

She’d like to see someone with experience selling real estate or leading a Realtor association as CEO. Someone who “understands the day-to-day lives of people that they’re serving. If you’re so far removed from the process, it’s hard to figure out ways to help those people,” she said.

She’s not sure where the rumor about Goldberg started, but her view that the search process needs more transparency didn’t come out of nowhere.

Heidrick & Struggles, the executive search firm NAR hired to find Stinton’s replacement, sent out a survey asking for feedback on the opportunities and challenges the trade group will face in the future and the characteristics NAR’s next leader should have.

But it didn’t send the survey out to all members.

Screen shot of Heidrick & Struggles survey on NAR’s next CEO

“I’m a member of NAR. I didn’t get the survey,” Lake said. She posted it to a secret Facebook group for “power women” and asked, “Hey ladies, have you seen this?”

“And a lot of people hadn’t seen it,” Lake said.

For those interested in participating, the survey was still open as of Tuesday morning.

NAR responds

NAR declined to say whether there was any truth to the rumor that Goldberg had already been chosen as Stinton’s successor or whether it already had a short list of candidates under consideration.

“The NAR member search committee remains focused on finding the best qualified candidate for the position,” spokeswoman Sara Wiskerchen told Inman via email.

“It’s not appropriate for us to comment further on the candidate selection process or respond to any speculation. Also, as a reminder, all candidate names will remain confidential for their own privacy and will not be shared externally, even after a new CEO is hired.”

When asked who the survey Lake mentioned had been sent out to, what the survey period was, and what would be done with the survey results, Wiskerchen said, “A survey was distributed to members of [the] NAR board of directors, AEs [association executives] and others last week from the CEO search firm Heidrick & Struggles to gather feedback to formulate the CEO job description.

“Additional information and updates on the search process, including the job description once it’s finalized, will be made available online at www.nar.realtor in the ‘About NAR’ section of the site.

“As always, we welcome member input and encourage Realtors to share their feedback with the search firm by emailing REALTORS@heidrick.com. Feedback sent to this address will be compiled and shared.”

NAR plans to post the job description by mid-February, she added.

What’s next

Lake said she hopes to use the job description to match it up to the qualifications of the women she will profile.

So far she’s got a list of about 15 women she wants to profile, but is asking for more suggestions. Some on the list include Suzanne Mueller of Move Inc., Merri Jo Cowen of My Florida Regional MLS, and Cary Sylvester of Keller Williams.

“I’m just looking for strong women leaders who have been in the industry, rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty, doing the work instead of just sitting in a corner office somewhere,” Lake said.

Lake will be reaching out to some people she knows on the NAR member search committee, which she praised for its diversity.

“I want to make them aware of the Facebook group and to make them aware of the reason we started it — that there’s a lot of discussion about it behind the scenes,” she said.

“If they want to speak up and say something, I’m all for it. I definitely don’t want to create a lynch mob. [I] just want to let them know there’s some unrest happening.”

In the interests of not having the Facebook group turn into a “circus” or fostering the aforementioned lynch mob, she will be keeping the group closed, she said.

“This is all for the good of the industry. It’s not to be negative. It’s not to cause drama. It’s actually just to say, ‘Hey, by the way you guys, let’s just make sure everybody has a voice in this process,'” she said.

“It’s so crappy when everyone just says things behind the scenes and then it happens and everyone says, ‘I wish I would have spoken up.'”

The conversation so far

The group is already offering more transparency into the process in the sense that at least one of its members has posted about his experience being interviewed by Heidrick & Struggles.

David Charron

David Charron, chief strategy officer of Bright MLS, said in a group post that he wasn’t interviewed as a candidate but as someone who could contribute ideas to help shape the job description. In the post he shares what questions the search firm asked and his responses.

“I for one am very appreciative that the committee saw fit to ask people (like me) who are not beneficiaries of NAR largess. This leads me to believe the selection committee is wide-open to my (and others) suggestions,” he wrote.

“I know it is early but so far this process appears fair and balanced. Kudos to Chris Polychron and the committee,” he added.

“Keep the conversation going guys. People are listening!”

Email Andrea V. Brambila.

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