Fall Meeting attendees interact during the Mentor Mart for Emerging Leaders in New York City.

It isn’t every day that emerging leaders in the global real estate industry get to mingle with a baker’s dozen of established leaders—including ULI trustees, governors, and other senior members—and maybe even find a lifelong mentor.

That was the idea behind the Larson Leadership Initiative (LLI) “Mentor Mart” for emerging leaders, held during “leadership and professional development day” on Tuesday, October 21, during the 2014 ULI Fall Meeting in New York City.

Moderated by Michael Horst, the Mentor Mart featured a highly interactive format with more than 20 concurrent roundtable discussions, each facilitated by a ULI senior member. Following introductions, each participant was asked to answer questions including: “The leader I most admire is or was . . . ,” “One leadership moment I am most proud of is . . . ,” and “When I was younger, one thing I wish someone had taught me about leadership is. . . .”

Kicking off the discussion was Eric Larson, whose late father Robert C. “Bob” Larson founded the ULI initiative to add leadership development activities to its program and extend the Institute’s reach to many more current and potential leaders. In an interview, Larson explained: “My dad loved ULI—it was a big part of what defined him personally and professionally. He wanted to somehow pass on this legacy, and founded the Larson Leadership Institute around that principle.”

Since its inception, LLI has focused on Bob Larson’s vision of infusing leadership in ULI’s members, with programs in three main areas:

  • Leading for ULI: Training activities allowing member volunteers to enhance skills to do their ULI “job”;
  • Leading in the community: Programs enabling ULI members to be more effective leaders in their communities; and
  • Leading as enterprise: Events, coaching, training, and programs empowering ULI members to be better leaders in their businesses and communities.

When asked about the roles they play within the Institute and their best ULI experiences, participants had a wide range of responses. “ULI is not a real estate trade group—it has DNA that goes back to when it was founded in the 1930s,” said Larson. “It’s about camaraderie and sharing best practices. One of the best things we can do is seek feedback from those just getting into the industry, creating that foundation and platform for growth.”

Kim Morque of Spinnaker Real Estate Partners agreed: “It’s a contact sport—you have to get involved.” Brian Moore, who works for the city of Richmond, Washington, noted: “I am in the ‘wild west’—we are so spread out that I would have to drive four hours to go to a ULI district council meeting. So engaging with ULI at the Spring and Fall Meetings helps me connect to other real estate professionals who are not in my immediate market, so we can share ideas and build relationships.”

Leaders admired most by participants ranged from Mahatma Gandhi to Steve Jobs, Michael Bloomberg, journalist Malcolm Gladwell, and Washington, D.C., ULI leader Len Forkas. Forkas is the founder of Hopecam Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps children with cancer overcome social isolation, and author of a book titled What Spins the Wheel.

Participants had no trouble agreeing on what the skills of great leaders were: the ability to inspire, envision, empower, delegate, listen, communicate, and lead by example. These concepts are so well known to the family and friends of Bob Larson that they have a name for them: “Bobisms.” With the help of LLI, an increasing number of ULI’s emerging leaders are learning how to put “Bobisms” into practice in their daily lives and careers.