Why Women Should Lead Change In Commercial Real Estate

uncaptionedAs a commercial real estate entrepreneur , my job involves a lot of traveling and networking. I often find myself at receptions, cocktail in hand, introducing myself and explaining what I do. And when I explain that my startup is disrupting the commercial real estate lending industry, it’s not uncommon for me to get a few raised eyebrows to what many perceive to be a male-dominated field.

And that’s OK, actually. I don’t really have any horror stories to share here. As a matter of fact, the commercial real estate business is pretty well suited for women.

Why? Collaboration, for one. It’s not a place where you can succeed by ramming through your vision — there are a lot of moving parts and people responsible for moving them.

Sometimes, when women reach leadership positions, we are subtly directed to subsume our perceived “female” qualities — things like collaborating, listening and having an inclusive decision-making philosophy, to name a few. As a woman and a leader in the field for almost two decades, I always counsel the women I mentor to use those qualities in real estate because those are precisely the things that set them up for success in leadership.

Simply put, there’s nothing to hide. A good leader in this industry is able to grasp the complexities of human relationships and put that understanding to good use through effective collaboration and inclusive decision-making to motivate her employees. This gives her an edge.

The second thing I think about is the importance of vision. Let’s dispense with the notion that vision is something we’re all supposed to bring to leadership. To me, vision is intentional, and it is driven by qualities that we don’t often talk about in real estate — endurance and “moxie.” If you’re a woman who aspires to leadership, you need the emotional and intellectual staying power to have an enduring vision that’s wide enough and strong enough to give you purpose through the tough times, not just the shiny new objects.

Speaking of tough times, one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a peer in real estate who explained that she had learned to use her own personal discomfort as an indicator of opportunities from which she’d normally turn away. That really stuck with me, and it’s a strategy I still use to make sure my vision stays true to my long-term goals. And frankly, it has been a fantastic way to show leadership to my team.

The third quality that I focus on is relationships. It might sound trite, but relationships — people — are the glue that sustains a good corporate culture. And they’re one of the first things to go in the fast-moving, solution-oriented environment of a startup. As women, we can be exceptionally adept at leveraging relationships, and it’s important that we hold on to that. Remembering who your people are as individuals, from the rookies to members of the C-suite, can motivate the “average” employee to become an extraordinary member of your team, simply because they’re not used to being recognized in that fashion.

Finally, let’s talk a bit about innovation. I think of innovation a little differently. I often hear about it mentioned as a quality or a skill to be cultivated. But think of it instead as the output that you get as a result of the qualities mentioned earlier: collaboration, vision, moxie and relationships.

As a leader in real estate, I accepted from the start that I was not going to be the person generating every single idea for the company. That takes courage, especially since, as a woman, I sometimes found myself in the position of having to prove my value. But as a leader, my job was to cultivate a culture of innovation. And that involves giving people the space to take risks, have meaningful agency over their work and be listened to and recognized for that work — collaboration and relationships.

Leading through these qualities can spur an organization to move fast, see and seize the opportunity, and disrupt the industry you operate in. By embracing your strengths in creating environments where people can do their best work together, that approach may yield satisfying results.

My parting words of advice to female entrepreneurs are these: Don’t hide from the so-called “female” qualities that are perceived to belong only to women. Instead, embrace them and make them work for you. Leverage the qualities that you bring to the table. Embrace discomfort, and be smart about using the people around you to find — and seize — opportunities to be a disruptor and innovator. They’re out there.

[“source=forbes”]