NMP - April 2017 - 73

special focus on LEADERSHIP

things are beyond her control.
None of us control everything that
affects our businesses but we
need to adjust to them anyway.
True leaders control what they can
but mostly manage through the
things they can't. If you run
operations, you may not control
production but you do have the
ability to impact the customer
experience; you are probably the
best situated to help marketing
understand the client's needs
because you know what problems
you are solving and you control
efficiency of all the product
processes. If you are in capital
markets, you don't control interest
rates, but you own the capital
formation process and adjust
pricing and structure to adapt to
market conditions.
3. Vision
Vision is what comes from total
ownership and then taking a step
back. If you are allowed truly to
own your business, taking risks
and making mistakes, you will
come up with some great ideas.
Then you will see things in a whole
new light. Then you will begin to
expand your vision. You will see

a special focus on LEADERSHIP

the trends and you will focus on
not just where the business is
going but where it can go. You
will learn from your mistakes. We
could look at single family rental
loans as a one-off response to
institutions entering the housing
market in the downturn or we
could take a step back and see
rental housing as a structural part
of the U.S. housing stock without
a bespoke financial product. You
might have a different vision of
what you are building if you are
thinking more broadly and see the
market as not just owner
occupants and apartment
dwellers, but a whole continuum
of affordable housing around the
country.
4. Clear communication
skills
You can have a great vision and
be willing to take risks and own
outcomes but if you don't
communicate it clearly, no one
will follow. The greatest leaders
are great communicators. This is
perhaps the most straightforward
area for coaching. Make sure your
next round of leaders is
constantly challenged on clear

written communication, using
data to communicate ideas and
presenting internally and
externally. We make sure our
business leaders drive our due
diligence sessions when third
parties come to the office. It's a
process to make sure people
know they can drive and that we
trust them to drive. I have even
taken to stepping out casually
when a business line is
presenting to make sure the
leader has the complete floor and
that no one is deferring to me.
Showing the depth of the bench
is the strongest sign of leadership
you can give. To scale, leadership
needs to flow through the
organization, not just sit at the
top. The other important
opportunity to grow leadership in
this business is to make sure your
leaders present at conferences,
are the stars of the Webinars and
become known as the industry
experts. The person touching the

a special focus on LEAD

client can often be the clearest
voice on the problem your product
is solving. If an organization has
only one face, it is not developing
any leaders.
5. Personal brand awareness
The combination of these
attributes will contribute to the
individual developing his own
personal brand. Your team
members are empowered to take
risk and so they bring their ideas
to work on a regular basis. They
own the outcome so you are
willing to let them try new things.
They develop a vision for the
market and the products that
don't stop at the status quo. They
articulate that vision in a way that
we understand and we come on
board with them. Then they start
to think of themselves as the
industry expert you helped them
become. Now you have
homegrown leaders and your
business can scale.

Beth O'Brien is president and chief executive officer of
Colony American Finance.

73

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