Significance of Flexible Leadership in Real Estate Business
Ebony Landon, Vice President of Commercial Operations, JBG SMITH
Ebony studied at James Madison University and the University of Maryland, College Park. In addition, she holds designations as a Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM), Certified Property Manager (CPM), Real Property Administrator (RPA), Facility Management Administrator (FMA), FitWel Ambassador, and a LEED Green Associate. She currently serves as the 2022 President of the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM).
As Vice President of Commercial operations, Ebony Landon is primarily responsible for planning, directing, and contributing to all aspects of the real estate activities for the JBG SMITH REIT and FUND managed portfolio. She is the critical link between the commercial business strategy and day-to-day onsite operations.
In addition to her work commitments, Ebony's is a passionate philanthropist. She serves as Youth Pastor in her church, is on the board of a community-focused non-profit, PEP, and has launched a t-shirt line to help support other non-profit groups that provide for the poor and help heal the wounded and those who feed clothe children.
In an interview with Prop Tech Outlook magazine, Ebony sheds light on her working style, experience, and the significance of leadership and management in the real estate business.
As the Vice President of Commercial Operations, how do you link the overall commercial business strategy to day-to-day field operations? Please give some examples.
At JBG SMITH, my role involves constant collaboration with Asset Management, Accounting and Lease Administration, Marketing, Leasing, and other departments to carry out company goals.
The most important thing that a leader can do is understand the challenges organizations face and anticipate how to navigate them towards success
The most recent example of the significance of linking overall commercial business strategy to day-to-day onsite operations was pivoting during the pandemic when our organization and operations shifted to remote working culture. To serve our customers and operate our buildings, we were required to navigate many different aspects that were critical to building operations. We needed to implement technologies, communication channels, and relief that could best serve our tenants. We needed the support of our IT, Marketing, Accounting, Legal, and onsite Management teams. Our team developed a Healthy Workplace Blueprint which outlined how we were maintaining healthy and safe work environments due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. I also implemented access control technologies, participated in tenant relief packages and planning, rolled out signage across the portfolio for modified building entry, and worked with consultants on disinfecting scopes and guidelines for spaces within our buildings. I used all our available resources to figure out solutions to problems.
How is leadership crucial for real estate businesses to sustain success, and why is it vital for leaders to share decision-making tasks with their teams?
Leadership means a lot more than just finding solutions. It also entails leaning in and listening. The most important thing that a leader can do is understand the challenges their organization faces and anticipate how to navigate towards success. It is incredibly important to listen to our customers but even more important to our team members. We also need to share the business goals and ongoing initiatives with our teams. It is critical that they know the company's direction and how equally significant their contribution is to the organization's overall success.
Leaders must listen and give importance to their team members' opinions. Every individual in a team should be encouraged to participate in a project, share their ideas, and have scope for contribution. In this way, team members feel valued and empowered to carry out the project with vigour and excitement. Organizations with a diverse workforce and differing perspectives strengthen decision-making and overall success.
Understanding the business objectives and having a role in attaining them also creates a sense of purpose in employees. To fulfil any role requires a connection to the mission and the vision. Organizational success needs support from all constituents. Leaders must engage in active listening, provide regular feedback, and give a certain degree of autonomy to make employees for team members to work efficiently and effectively.
If you were to give an analogy between your personality traits and your management capabilities, what would that be?
I am an open book and always remain honest with people around me. I think this trait is equally important in a business environment. Confidence and trust are synonymous in genuine relationships. Leaders must remove personal walls around them to gain trust and instil confidence.
If I am required to work in a team, whether at home, with friends, or with my children, proper communication is important. I should be able to share my perspective and story with them. Accordingly, we should always encourage and lift people through our experiences. Every conversation shouldn't be formal and with a work agenda. We must also exhibit empathy and establish relationships and bonds with whom we spend many hours a week. Our organization promotes genuine relationships between all team members, including stakeholders, executives, etc. We encourage networking, mentorship with our co-workers and industry teammates.
What would be your piece of advice for your fellow peers/colleagues?
As the industry evolves, I would advise leaders to educate themselves continually and not be afraid to make mistakes or take risks because they help us learn and grow as professionals. A simple analogy would be that of planting. Not every good seed produces fruit, but the better seeds we plant, the more we will have the chance of producing fruit. Similarly, the more risk we take, the greater our chances of success.
Furthermore, leaders should never ignore the significance of grace, mercy, and empathy for themselves and others. We never know what others are experiencing outside of office hours. As professionals and leaders, we need to be real and work to identify personally with all people. We need to allow ourselves and others to breathe, have faith in each other, be humane, and learn from mistakes and errors.
And lastly, they must never stop networking. Networking allows us to learn from others. Networking is perhaps the most effective medium of information sharing and learning. Leaders must also contribute by mentoring and sponsoring team members. The greatest gift any leader can give is to pay it forward.
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