THOUGHTS ON LEADERSHIP: YOUNG AT HEART

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Maui, presenting on mindset and the creation of a positive routine to a Young Professional Network (YPN) group of real estate professionals.

Young leaders are an important facet of our real estate industry, and we should foster their development at every turn. In fact, young professionals must be taken seriously because they are quite literally the future of real estate. The brightest young leaders today are all digital natives, they grew up with technology and a cellphone in their hands. Through social media, they also know they’ve got a platform to share their opinions and do so readily, which creates transparency in the workplace and a formidable chance for them to revolutionize obsolete business practices. Writing for Forbes, contributor Kate Harrison says: “Young leaders don’t make it complicated, and they recognize the daily opportunity to share their voice and spread change instead.”

In the name of young leadership, let’s take a look at some inspiring leaders throughout the years who didn’t just ask for change; they became it:

John F. Kennedy – A personal hero of mine, JFK was the youngest person in the history of the U.S. to be elected president at 43 years, 163 days of age on election day. Notably, while he was the youngest to be elected, he was the second-youngest president ever. Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest person to assume the office. He was 42 years, 322 days old when he became President following William McKinley’s assassination. A leader who changed the course of civil rights, JFK’s vision was so strong and powerful that the words he spoke 50+ years ago still resonate with just as much relevance today: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Tracy Britt Cool – At age 30, Cool was named CEO of kitchen tools line Pampered Chef, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary. But her road to chief-executive-officer-dom was paved with hard work along the way. “At 10 years of age, I had my own farmer’s stand,” the Harvard University undergrad (and Harvard Business School grad) told CNBC. “I hired my friends and set their wages, set the prices of fruit and vegetables, and I realized I liked all those aspects of business and that’s what I wanted to get into.” According to Fortune, after graduating Harvard Business School in 2009, Cool reached out to Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett saying she’d work for him “a day a week, a month – I’d do anything.” Cool’s commitment to her goals is one of the reasons she was able to solidify her leadership position at such a young age.

Elon Musk – Did you know Musk founded his first company when he was 24 years old? The Tesla titan launched Zip2 (originally Global Link Information Network) with his brother, Kimbal, to give online city guides to publications like the New York Times and Chicago Tribune. Since then, he’s gone on to launch X.com, Tesla, SpaceX and The Boring Company. Part of Musk’s success derives from a willingness (and even a propensity) to fail. “Failure is an option here,” he once said, referring to the culture and business philosophy behind SpaceX. “If things are not failing, you are not innovating.”

Michael Dell – The Dell Technologies founder started his company at the age of 21 from his University of Texas in Austin dorm room. At first, Dell was simply re-vamping computers to earn extra money but soon turned that into a full-time job, left college and Dell was born.

Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin – Weisberg and Zakin met while studying abroad in Rome. Weisberg was a student at Tufts and Zakin was a student at the University of Pennsylvania. After graduation, the two were both working for NBC News in New York and soon became roommates; the decision would prove pivotal. When they realized their friends did not avidly consume the news like they did, Weisberg and Zakin decided to make news more appealing to a younger generation. The two founded a media company called theSkimm, (Weisberg was 25 and Zakin was 26 at the time) and according to the last public report in October 2018, theSkimm newsletter has more than 7 million subscribers.

Mark Zuckerberg – It’s the tech story heard ‘round the world. Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard at the age of 19 after launching a company called Thefacebook from his dorm room. Today, Facebook is the world’s largest social media platform with a market cap of $542+ billion.

Bill Gates – As mentioned in my blog post about “Inside Bill’s Brain,” when Gates stepped down from Microsoft in 2008, he was worth more than $58 billion. But his business story really began at age 16 when Gates and a computer programmer named Paul Allen launched a business they named Traf-o-Data. Though Traf-o-Data failed (the program automated the analysis of traffic flow data for roads in Washington), from the company’s challenges emerged triumph; Gates and Allen then focused on building up Microsoft, which they did with unprecedented success.

Evan Spiegel – Spiegel was just 22 when he came up with the idea for Snapchat. He presented Snapchat to his Stanford product design class but as Forbes reported, they called it a “terrible idea.” (A note here: If you believe in something’s viability enough, don’t let public opinion sway you.) Spiegel founded Snapchat anyway and today the company has a market cap in the tens of billions.

Steve Jobs – What would this list be without Steve Jobs? Jobs was 21 (and co-founder Steve Wozniak was just 25) when Apple was born. Jobs and Wozniak worked out of a garage in the Jobs’ family house, the place where they held meetings, built computers and planned out a tech company that would change the world.

And for you sports fans reading this, a few stats:

  • Ben Roethlisberger is the youngest quarterback to win the Super Bowl, which he did at 23 years of age.
  • Fred Lindstrom was the youngest player to appear in the MLB World Series when he played for the New York Giants at age 18.
  • Tracy Austin is the youngest player ever to win the Women’s Singles Championship at the U.S. Open. At 16 years, 8 months and 28 days, she beat multiple Grand Slam champions, including Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, to claim the title.
  • Stanley Hillman is the youngest player to ever win the Stanley Cup. He was 18 years old when the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 1955.
  • Jim Palmer is the youngest pitcher in MLB history to throw a complete-game shutout in the World Series at the age of 20.
  • Tiger Woods is the youngest player to win the Masters at the age of 21.
  • Darko Miličić is the youngest player to play in an NBA finals game and the youngest player ever to win the NBA championship. He was just 18 years old when his team, the Detroit Pistons, claimed victory.
  • Gino Blefari, youngest Class A Golf Course Superintendent at age 18.

So, what’s the message? The truth is, it doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 80, leadership does not discriminate by age. Instead, it’s a mindset formed from having a positive routine and following the keys to success in order to accomplish your goals. Anyone, any age can do it but not everyone has the commitment and focus to get it done. Do you?

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