The Elements of Leaders

Enthusiasm is more contagious than the common cold, and a whole lot more pleasant.

By Heather McCune, Editor in Chief | January 31, 2002


Heather McCune, Editor in Chief


Enthusiasm is more contagious than the common cold, and a whole lot more pleasant. On this particular Saturday morning, senior editor Bill Lurz can’t contain his enthusiasm. That means my cell phone rings early (the morning after my 12-year-old daughter’s sleepover party for 13 friends, I might add).

“I have our Builder of the Year,” exclaims Lurzy, as he is known on staff. He excitedly recounts an even earlier morning conversation he had just finished with a builder.

I love getting Bill’s phone calls, no matter the hour or the day. After 20-plus years covering the residential construction industry, Bill remains enthused about learning something new each day. What’s more, he is never selfish with his excitement or information. Regularly he infects the rest of us, and we are better because he does.

Bill isn’t alone in his enthusiasm for this industry and the people who populate it. That is the one characteristic that unites the Thought Leaders profiled in this issue. Each embodies the axiom that life expands in proportion to one’s enthusiasm and courage.

In fact, courage was the second criterion necessary for inclusion on the Thought Leader list. These 13 individuals aren’t afraid to stand up and say that as an industry we can and should do better. Thought Leaders are not afraid to point out a better way. There is John Knott, who calls on developers and builders to adopt a systems approach to creating new communities and new homes. Randy Jackson dares to see a new use for underutilized land. Verne Harnish shows CEOs that their behavior might be the biggest hurdle to realizing the business growth they desire. Paco Underhill uncovers the opportunities builders miss to close more homes and create more satisfied customers simply because they “sell what they have rather than what the customer wants to buy.”

The Thought Leader qualification list doesn’t stop at enthusiasm and courage. An idea without a plan to develop it and the actions to execute it becomes nothing more than an excuse. These challengers of the status quo back up their words and experience with action. Each understands that an idea’s originator also bears the personal responsibility for bringing it to life. William McDonough pioneers a new standard for sustainability, making eco-effectiveness rather than eco-efficiency the goal. Tom and Caroline Hoyt prove that home builders have options for succession beyond the second generation or selling out. Michael Pyatok’s process to design affordable housing shows how building homes can be the first step in building a healthy community, too. David Weekley understands the barriers to continuing education that exist in the workplace today, but that didn’t deter him from seeking out a means of delivering just-in-time learning to his company’s only asset — its people. Leslie Dashew separates the family from the business in succession planning and in the process preserves both.

These 13 Thought Leaders also possess those final elements critical to leading change. Each is eager to share his or her thoughts and ideas, to mentor others, to create a shared sense of purpose in building a new future. Joe Lstiburek and Betsy Pettit developed Houses That Work on their Web site to help home builders move from description to real-world applications. Paul Smith weaves the stories into a place so that buyers can imagine adding their own chapters to the saga in their new homes. Claes Fornell cuts through the noise in customer satisfaction data and teaches builders how to ask the questions that yield actionable answers. Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk create cutting-edge communities such as Aqua that point to the future direction for housing design.

What’s the payoff to being a Thought Leader? Simply, these Thought Leaders hold to one very old idea: Nothing is worth doing unless it makes economic sense. New ways of researching, designing, building, developing, managing and selling deliver a bigger bottom line for builders by helping them create products with greater value for buyers.


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