The ULI Robert C. Larson Leadership Initiative in March presented an updated version of one of ULI’s historic leadership events—the Leadership Roundtable. Held at ULI headquarters in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., and open only to 50 ULI full members, the roundtable over two days provided eight hours of in-depth looks at leadership skills, best practices, and lessons learned.
The event began with a peer-to-peer exchange of leadership moments of which the members are most proud, including ULI activities such as hosting a major meeting or leading a district council community outreach program. Other moments involved volunteer activities with local charities.
Parris Glendening former Maryland governor and now senior fellow for Smart Growth America, was interviewed by Tom Murphy, ULI/Klingbeil Family Chair for Urban Development, on a variety of leadership opportunities and challenges from the public sector perspective. Most of Glendening’s lessons learned came from crises, such as a listeria scare that threatened to close Maryland’s Eastern Shore during a prime holiday weekend. Key points included providing great vision, getting all stakeholders in the room, taking risks, speaking in easy-to-understand language, and distinguishing between strategic leadership and crisis leadership.
Following a networking dinner, the group began a dialogue about traits of leaders, such as integrity, vision, and empowerment, and those of nonleaders, including tribalism, micromanagement, and the like. Participants then discussed leadership skills they wish they had been taught—such as being authentic, accepting failure, and engaging in collaborative communication—and delineated traits they would like to leave as their own leadership legacies, such as having passion and humility, learning new skills, having respect for everyone, and taking time to mentor.
Four participants shared leadership stories. Kathleen Carey, chief operations officer, global investment, of GE Capital Real Estate in Norwalk, Connecticut, explained when to say yes and when not to speak: “When you strike oil, stop boring,” she said. Len Forkas, president of Milestone Communities in Reston, Virginia, told how he led a district council Reality Check program by visualizing a fun experience, beta testing the concept, and correcting course before the event. Tara Hernandez, president of JCH Development in New Orleans, described how, in trying to return to New Orleans and retrieve her car in the aftermath of Katrina, she needed to be fearless and focused and never give up. Baltimore architect Bryce Turner, president and CEO of Brown Craig Turner, described his leadership during the difficult economic times of the past two years. He said his ability to just show up, have faith, and be the focal point allowed him to grow and become a better communicator.
Roundtable participants then talked about their own leadership stories during the past two to three years. Consistent themes included innovation, effective communication, transparency, nurturing and creating community, and finding a small pleasure every day. To conclude, the group was asked to say what one thing they were going to do tomorrow based on what they learned in the roundtable. Responses ranged from doing yoga and eating ice cream to confirming a vision for a team and communicating, even through daily e-mails.
When asked to describe one thing of value learned in the roundtable, Patrick Shooltz, regional director, Mid-Atlantic region, and senior vice president, development, at New Boston Fund, replied, “It is extremely beneficial to review leadership qualities in the context of my day-to-day business activity to ensure that I am taking time to demonstrate and model those qualities while pursuing and processing the pursuits of my company’s business. In other words, don’t lose sight of the importance of leadership every day,” he said. ”I have reduced my notes to a one-pager that is now visible from my desk; it is simply a list of ‘leadership traits.’” Anthony Chang listed, “the importance of the small things in leading (i.e., regular meetings, an unhurried style, and dispassionate approach that many people referred to).”
The group agreed that the beta test for the Larson Leadership Roundtable was a big success. Plans are now being made to offer roundtables on a regional basis and create a shortened version for district council leadership.