Dan Bellow, President of JLL Houston, was the keynote speaker at the annual AGC meeting held at the Briar Club in Houston on February 6, 2019. The audience, filled with construction company and industry leaders from throughout the Houston region, were treated to an outstanding talk on leadership. Bellow was one more star in the stellar record AGC has of inviting regional and national speakers to speak about subjects that are priorities for their member companies and guests.
Bellow, who has been a leader in the commercial real estate profession in the Houston Region for 45 years, illustrated his speech on his thoughts and experiences of leadership by using two exemplary leaders who both made a major impact on his career in real estate.
First, Bellow described Mr. Henry S. Miller Jr., who was chairman of the Henry S. Miller Companies in Dallas when Bellow entered the industry in the late 70s after graduating from the University of Houston. Bellow described Mr. Miller as a soft-spoken gentleman who believed that integrity, character and reputation were the most important traits that a real estate leader could have. Bellow described to the crowd, “In tenant representation real estate brokerage, all our assets wear shoes.” The traits that Mr. Miller believed were the core of the culture for the Miller Company as it expanded across Texas were traits that Bellow acquired early in his career. Bellow followed Henry S. Miller Jr. as a role model and mentor as he developed his own leadership style for the Houston commercial operations.
Second, Bellow pointed to Roger Staubach, CEO of the Staubach Company, who his fans and the pundits named “Captain America” when he quarterbacked the Super Bowl winning Dallas Cowboys. After his stellar career with the Cowboys, Staubach started his own real estate brokerage firm in Dallas. Bellow served as a leader in the Staubach firm when Roger created his vision to be a national firm of “Tenant Rep” brokers for corporate clients across the nation. Dan illustrated the key traits that Staubach exhibited in the Staubach firm and told of his experiences working closely with Roger as the firm grew from $15 million to $750 million in revenues over 15 years and then merged operations with JLL, a global provider of real estate services.
Bellow outlined for the audience eight traits that he learned from Mr. Miller and Roger Staubach that Dan lives by as the leader of the Houston and Louisiana operations of JLL today.
Those eight qualities were:
- Integrity – The most important quality that a leader must possess.
- Fostering a company culture – Both Mr. Miller and Roger had companies based on trust, teamwork and treating both co-workers and clients with respect.
- Ability to share the vision – Bellow talked about how Mr. Miller had fulfilled a vision of a fully integrated, full service real estate firm that served clients in the major cities of Texas. He then explained how Staubach’s vision of a team of top “Tenant Rep” brokers serving corporate clients across the nation became a reality. Both men were able to clearly see their vision for where they wanted their respective companies to go.
- Recruiting and retaining “top” talent – As Dan said, “Great leaders hire and develop great leaders.” Bellow gave the example that Roger Staubach used that stated that the team with the best talent usually wins. Bellow also cited a new book by Patrick Lencione, The Ideal Team Player, in which Lencione describes the three major characteristics of the ideal team player as hungry, humble and smart.
One point that Bellow emphasized for the firm leaders in the audience is that hiring the best talent is one thing, but training and growing them is critical to the long-term success of any company.Bellow stated it in the stronger terms when he said, “If you are not growing them (your people), then (your firm) is dying.” He continued, “There is no status quo in business.”
- Leaders pay attention to the details – This is different from managing in that the leaders make it possible for their teams to grow and develop as a team and while that is happening, the leaders pay attention to what it takes for the team to succeed. They bring in the professionals needed to manage the operations and together with the leaders move the vision forward. Bellow used the example of Mr. Miller, in the early years of the company, reading “carbon” copies of every letter that the brokers sent out over the company name so that he knew what was happening across the company. He used those points to help his team grow and to better understand the Miller culture.
- Accountability – Bellow said that he learned that accountability is “a blessing” for him, “not a burden because it demands your best thinking, creativity, boldness, discipline and leadership to stay on task and to accomplish the action plans and objectives.” Bellow also said, “Leaders must be held accountable and hold others accountable for the commitments they make.”
- Be a Good Communicator – Both Mr. Miller and Roger Staubach commanded attention when they entered a room or when they spoke. They were both soft spoken, spoke with brevity, clarity, were inspiring and funny when they delivered their message with confidence. Both Mr. Miller and Roger Staubach were master speakers whether there was a small gathering or, as Dan’s example illustrated, when Roger nominated George HW Bush, the 41st president of the Unites States, at the 1992 Republican Convention in Houston.
- Lead with a Servant’s Heart – Bellow learned from both of his mentors that business leaders must make a difference in their businesses, in their communities and at home. He explained that both Mr. Miller and Staubach turned the top down “pyramid” upside down so that, like the statue of Atlas holding up the world in Rockefeller Center in New York, the leader makes it possible for others to grow to be their best.
In closing, Bellow thanked his mentors at whose side he learned and on whose shoulders he stands today. Bellow has exhibited his learned leadership qualities in the firms and markets where he and his team have been recognized as true leaders and real estate professionals.
Note: You might wonder why Bellow used Mr. Miller throughout and did not refer to him as Henry. That is because he deserved that respect and everyone in the Miller firm referred to him that way. Staubach is referred to as Roger as that is the way he wants to be addressed.
An added fact for this discussion is that Staubach, in the “off season” from his football career, worked with the Miller companies, learned from Mr. Miller’s culture and then incorporated those leadership traits with those learned on the football field when he set up his own real estate company.