Before Inman Connect in New York City last month, Trulia founder and investor Pete Flint asked me if he could share his opinions about the lack of real estate leadership — and the challenges the industry faces as a result.
“Go for it,” I said.
Flint’s predictions about disruption, and hesitant and resistant real estate leaders, were harsh but necessary for all of us to hear.
“It’s a slow-moving industry. There’s a 10-year window here. But the majority of traditional real estate companies will die,” Flint said onstage.
His point was not that the industry has no leaders, but that many have their heads stuck in the sand as a “tsunami” of disruption heads for the beach.
I agree with Flint that ours is an industry facing serious, existential threats. And that transformational leadership will be required to survive.
That’s why I am spending most of my waking hours this year thinking about how I can connect the right people, inside and outside the business, and what I can do to illuminate the inevitable changes on the horizon. Most importantly, I want to begin a serious, open and transparent dialogue about what is ahead, what needs to change, and how our leaders must behave.
How do you lead boldly without acting reckless? How do you bring along a restless workforce and thrive in a divided society and a conflicted industry? How do you prepare your company to survive a world of open data? How do you move quickly on a responsible AI makeover? How do you scale your idea into a much bigger enterprise?
Now more than ever you must collaborate with frenemies and create a diverse and ready culture that will help you change your habits, upset company traditions, throw out old business models and rid your culture of tired behavior. Leaders must step up, speak up and be authentic.
So here is my plan: A year-long comprehensive commitment to support a new generation of leaders; to inspire legacy executives who are willing to change; and to share best practices for leadership across the industry.
It begins with bringing all sides, voices and perspectives together. A powerful, curious and diverse set of leaders will gather next month at our Disconnect in the Desert in Palm Springs, California, to learn about disruption, change, and leadership in other industries; to share and discuss our own stories; and to create a living document that maps out real estate leadership in the future.
We will bring insights from organizations like Netflix, Amazon, and the U.S. Military, each of which has developed impressive leadership principles and figured out ways to build a culture that wins. We will have sophisticated investors who are putting money into technology disruption, leading strategists from other industries, and an executive coach who helps the best and brightest of Wall Street and the Silicon Valley.
Already signed up for this important gathering: real estate franchise executives, NAR leaders, startups, top producing brokers, tech executives, and company owners. It is a limited but diverse, opinionated, action-oriented tribe of real estate leaders. Several noted personalities will facilitate the discussions and lead the crafting of a declaration of freedom from the old ways. I call this the Manifesto for Real Estate Leadership.
Take the issue of open data, the industry is fragmented with a gaggle of groups and companies taking a different position. How do we forge a consensus together to do what is best for the consumer and the industry? The industry should stand for something, which may be controversial and difficult, but some agreement will help us move forward.
If you feel you are one of those leaders who is truly committed to changing the industry, or if you want to recommend a colleague, send me a note here and tell me why. I want this gathering to include the best of real estate and I don’t pretend to know all of the doers out there.
“Change is upon us,” said Better Homes and Gardens CEO Sherry Chris. “Inman is creating a platform for real estate leaders to take action individually and together to get to where we all know we need to go.”
The process will begin this month with our work on a Guide for Real Estate Leadership that Inman will publish shortly, digest at Disconnect and distribute widely across the industry for discussion and action throughout this year.
For the first time, we will launch a study that asks the industry what they want from their leaders and why. Too often such reports ask the same old industry experts and executives what is happening and what should be done. We are flipping that pyramid.
Fierce changes are in the works and the industry has three choices: ignore them, sugarcoat them or face and shape them. My commitment is help them do number three.
Fortune journalist and author Leigh Gallagher shared some lessons from her fascinating book on Airbnb at Connect last month. She said business leaders must embrace change and lean into unconventional thinking, or risk the kind of widespread disruption Airbnb continues to wreak on the hospitality industry because of leadership inaction.
Our industry is on the cusp of similar change and I want to help our leaders step up before it is too late.