Thoughts on Leadership: Beyond the Basics

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me first in Cincinnati for the National Association of REALTORS® Advisory Group Meeting where speakers included: Lawrence Yun, NAR senior vice president of research; Jeff Barnett, 2018 RES chair and moderator for the meeting; Bill Malkasian, chief advocacy officer, NAR Advocacy Group; Elizabeth Mendenhall, 2018 NAR president; Katie Johnson, NAR senior vice president and general counsel; Eric Eckardt, CEO of Purple Bricks; Jerry Giovaniello, NAR senior vice president and chief lobbyist; and Evan Liddiard, NAR senior tax policy representative and CPA.

Next, I traveled to New Jersey for a Leadership Excellence Forum. I was honored to discuss recruiting at the event, which was themed “Back to Basics.”

To me, the theme is an interesting one to discuss in the context of leadership. It’s true that a return to the basics, those core initiatives that will allow you to achieve your Wildly Important Goals, is important. But what good are basics if you can’t execute on them? Actually, what good is any strategy—basic, complex or at all levels in between—without execution?

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once famously said, “Do the thing and you will have the power. But they that do not the thing, had not the power.”  That is truly one of my favorite quotes.

Writing for Forbes, Karl Moore, a professor at McGill University and Oxford University associate fellow, explained that when teaching MBA students, 95% of content relates to the theory of strategy while only 5% relates to execution; in the real word, he describes, it should be the opposite. We should spend about 5-10% of our time on strategy and the rest focused on execution. Execution, in fact, is the basic premise at the heart of the Four Disciplines of Execution (4DX). By increasing our importance on execution rather than strategy, we can accomplish our goals and produce amazing results.

As I mentioned, the basics are important to understand but once understood, we must move beyond them and focus on how to actually get them done—on the execution. In fact, bestselling author Stephen Covey once said, “Most leaders would agree that they’d be better off having an average strategy with superb execution than a superb strategy with poor execution.” And Gary Vaynerchuk, social media guru (and CEO of our ad agency of record, VaynerMedia) is quoted as saying, “When it all comes down to it, nothing trumps execution.”

One of my other favorite quotes though, which speaks to the value of execution in the long-term, belongs to Mr. Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.: “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”

So, what’s the message? Really, everyone knows the basics so there’s no sense in going back to them. As a standalone, they’re not enough. However, the basics are important if we haven’t been executing on them from the start. Still, we must learn them, digest them and figure out how to move beyond. They are the building blocks of a strategy but the strategy is then the building blocks of an execution. No matter what you do to recruit, retain and build your business, the real message to ask is, “Can you execute?” Continued growth requires renewed effort by all.

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