Life Lessons Learned

There is nothing more inspiring than talking with a group of achievers about how they got to where they are today. I never walk away from such conversations without new ideas, insights and energy. Indeed, their advice can be widely applied, for despite variations in background, there always seem to be similarities in how they manage, the lessons they have learned and their advice to others.

I found this again as we reached out to 25 of the industry’s leading female executives for this month’s Special Report on Top Women in Real Estate. Some have had to fight harder than others in an industry where, despite ever-growing diversity, they remain a minority. But they have in common perseverance, dedication and an ability to learn from past experiences.

Another common trait that emerged was an ability to recognize and acknowledge (whether publicly or not) their strengths and weaknesses. Not something we tend to associate with executives, self-awareness, when it is put into practice effectively, can yield some real rewards. Career advancement is one, along with a willingness to listen, an ability to communicate and a knack for identifying individuals’ talents.
Self-awareness can bring humility, even a touch of insecurity—characteristics that might be unexpected for high-powered dealmakers. Nevertheless, two of the profiled women—both nationally respected New York brokers—have learned to turn self-doubt to their advantage. Offering another lesson in finding the positive in negative situations, one REIT executive stressed the importance of learning from mistakes. “If you aren’t failing at times, you’re really not challenging yourself or your business team to be the best,” she declared, in a contemporary echo of Alexander Pope’s 300-year-old lesson.

Indeed, challenging themselves is something these leading women do constantly, demonstrating a desire to remain flexible and learn from new experiences. That keeps them looking outward as well as inward as they seek the next frontier for their businesses and themselves. It also drives them to give back to their industry and communities. Most dedicate time to leadership positions with company boards, charitable groups or industry organizations. And they are eager to mentor others, both formally and informally.

Despite their own success, these inspiring women continue to seek out fresh ideas. That feedback can come from below—one communicated the importance of managing downward, not just upward—and a couple even look to their children.

Balancing work and family remains a challenge, and one person even declared it not to be possible. She recalled raising her child as a single mother and working every weekend to get ahead. Yet, another wrote a book about how to find that elusive balance.

I encourage you to read the stories related by these outstanding women and reflect on their words of wisdom. No matter how closely their experiences align with your own, you will surely glean new insights and ideas for your arsenal.

Suzann D. Silverman, Editorial Director