Thoughts on Leadership: Make A Difference

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels first found me in Northern California, preparing for the upcoming Berkshire Elite Circle Conference. This morning, I departed for Hawaii, and I’m en route to the Big Island as I write this to you now.

Another important milestone of the week happened in celebration of a longtime friend. Between conference calls and emails, I took time to honor a titan of our industry, Mike Ferry, on his birthday, which took place yesterday.

I first met Mike Ferry, CEO/owner of The Mike Ferry Organization, in 1986, at the Superstar Retreat he hosted in Newport Beach with Floyd Wickman. From that day on, Mike has made a huge impact on me and my career. In fact, if I had to single out the one person who has had the greatest impact on my decades-long journey in real estate, I’d say that person is Mike Ferry.

Mike has been my friend and mentor for 32 years and it was with deep respect, gratitude and appreciation that I participated in “I Made A Difference Day” yesterday, an initiative put together by his team, with his wife, Sabrina, leading the charge.

How do you define “I Made A Difference Day?” It was an opportunity to give back in celebration of Mike’s selfless spirit and relentless drive to help others. As I wrote in my #IMadeADifferenceDay social media posts, my own contribution involved going to Specialty’s, a food and coffee shop near our Irvine headquarters. Here’s what I did when I got there:

I waited in line for a few minutes—Specialty’s was empty when I got there—and when the very first person walked through the door and approached the cash register, I offered to buy his coffee.

He was surprised and delighted to be the recipient of “I Made A Difference Day,” and even told me he was originally planning to just sit outside and read a book without a coffee. Instead, he made a last-minute decision that he wanted a caffeinated pick-me-up while he read. I was happy to oblige.

After the coffee was bought and friendly words were exchanged, he went back outside into the sunny, Southern California day to read his book, free coffee in hand. I didn’t know much about him except that in some small way, I had contributed to making his morning a little bit brighter. And the experience made me feel brighter, too.

This might sound obvious but giving back is a crucial aspect to great leadership and sustainable success. It’s only fair that good fortune should be shared and altruism for altruism’s sake will always positively impact company culture and overall morale.

So, what’s the message? Leaders are undoubtedly in a unique position to make a difference. We all have a network of connections at our disposal, social media to help spread the message and experience inspiring others. Plus, making a difference is an act with no measurement to it. You cannot quantify giving back. Even something as small as buying a stranger coffee can impact his or her entire day, month or year. As Oscar Wilde once said, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” And as Mike Ferry reminded us on his own #I MadeADifferenceDay, the best part about making a difference is that it’s something every single one of us can—and should—do.  

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