ULI New York and Korn/Ferry International hosted Passing the Baton: Lessons in Leadership Transition on 9.13.12 at the Union League Club.
Anthony LoPinto of Korn/Ferry International started the discussion by first asking each panelist a simple question: What was one lesson you learned during your career that lead you to where you are today?
William Rudin mentioned that he was grateful to have worked at his family’s firm, Rudin Management, while he was still attending college, claiming this first-hand experience to be invaluable. It was here he learned that your reputation is key to to your success. Bryce Blair, Chairman of AvalonBay Communities, noted the importance to find a good mentor while always being sure to look out for yourself, forcing you to sometimes take a risk and/or move laterally within an organization.
Mr. LoPinto asked the panelists how they know if someone is a dealmaker and leader, focusing the discussion on “rainmakers” vs. “leaders.” Paul Pariser of Taconic Investment Partners described the historical landscape at Taconic, where only he and his partner, Charlie Taconic, were the 2 rainmakers. After hiring a group of potential leaders, both men realized they were hesitant to give up control. However, it became evident to Mr. Pariser that they had created a brand that needed to thrive in the future and the company dynamics needed to evolve with the brand. In this effort, Taconic hired a Chief Investment Officer with a big mandate for a future transition. Mr. Blair mentioned that every organization needs good dealmakers, but not all dealmakers may be interested in taking a leadership role within an organizational setting. Thus, if a natural dealmaker has a leadership role, you need to provide them with an excellent supporting cast. Mr. Rudin noted that some people are just natural leaders, citing his daughter’s role within Rudin Management. He created an organizational environment to allow open ideas and she flourished; she is now a leader at there.
Next, panelists examined the differences between public company leadership and private company leadership. Having worked in a private and public setting, Mr. Blair noted that the qualities of a leader are very similar for both settingd. The leader must have the same fundamental skills. The incentives are slightly different, but overall real estate development execution skills are valued by both types of companies.
Finally, the panelists discussed their timelines and strategies in regards to a formal leadership transition at their respective firms, passing the baton. Mr. Pariser mentioned that it will be a long, slow process as he is not ready to step down from his current role, but plans to empower his leaders to eventually take over. Mr. Rudin echoed Mr. Pariser’s comments and noted that he wants to keep creating a strong foundation and nurture his future leaders. Mr. Blair mentioned that it will not only be a personal decision but also an organizational one. He left the crowd with some advice: If there is too much leadership change, it can be disruptive. But, if there is too little change, the organization can become complacent.