Leadership – The Annapolis Method

Blog / Association, Planning, Misc​​​​​​​

As a REALTOR® Association Executive, you are not only responsible for the constant improvement of your personal leadership skills, but you are also responsible for the growth and cultivation of the skills of your volunteer leaders. You are the one responsible for inculcating in the mind of the novitiate volunteer, not only the traits, characteristics and examples of effective leadership, but very importantly, what I refer to as the Three Core Principles of association management and leadership, upon which your association was built, and will continue to grow and thrive in the future:

  • Associations have a perpetual life
  • Associations have a continuum of leadership
  • Associations have a continuum of membership

Association Executives and their staffs are the consistency and the glue, the true leaders of our REALTOR® organizations. As such, it is your duty as a leader, to ensure that leadership is part of the DNA of your organization. 

Visibility is the Key

Leadership ideas and concepts should be visible to all members each and every day, and brought to consciousness whenever possible. Strive to create an environment of leadership. Keep in mind that true leaders also make the best followers.

I am a proponent of large, visible charts, graphs, and posters. Repetition is the mother of learning and seeing something day in and day out will leave a lasting impression over time. At the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, the walls of Luce Hall (the Naval Science building, where I attended my first formal training in leadership) were lined with plaques with famous naval sayings. The technique was repetition. The intention was to move an idea “from the head to the heart.” Some might call this “brainwashing.” I prefer to call it learning and conditioning. The result is that ideas, concepts and philosophies become part of one’s belief system when observed, considered and weighed repetitively, over time, whether conscious or unconscious.

Written on plaques in Luce Hall, USNA, Annapolis:

“Men mean more than guns in the rating of a ship.” – John Paul Jones, Father of the American Navy.

This imbued in Midshipmen that one’s men and women are the true measure of success. Is that not true today?

“Don’t give up the ship.” During the War of 1812, Captain James Lawrence commanded the USS Chesapeake in a single-ship action against HMS Shannon. He is probably best known today for his dying command "Don't give up the ship!"

Leaders are called to place mission over personal interests. Since human beings are programmed to do that which is in their own best interest, it often takes time and repetition to displace old philosophies and human tendencies.

“If the mast goes, we go with it, our post is here.”  -Midshipman Jarvis, USS Constellation

Dedication and perseverance are still the marks of good leaders

“He who will not risk cannot win” - John Paul Jones

Leaders are willing to take risks, calculated risks.

Looking at these, in a casual way…day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, I can attest, leaves a lasting impression…from your head, to your heart. They become part of the way you think.

Of course, this methodology is well known. Millions of dollars are spent each year on neatly framed motivational quotes, posted in conspicuous places, and for what purpose? “From the head to the heart.”

What does this have to do with association leadership you may now be asking yourself? Associations require leaders who understand, feel if you will, those cornerstones mentioned earlier in this article. Concepts required for the effective, year after year development of our REALTOR® Associations. It is imperative that these concepts be introduced and held constantly in the eyes (minds and hearts) of all members. Having these concepts integrated into the thoughts of our associations will help provide more consistent, member benefitting decision making, year after year, decade after decade.

Three basic concepts of association management that must be ever present are:

  • Associations have a perpetual life
  • Associations have a continuum of leadership
  • Associations have a continuum of membership

Consider creating posters with these concepts prominently displayed at your association, in the lobby area and in the Board Room. They will make a difference.

Let’s examine each of these Principles and the impact an understanding of them will have upon your organization.

Associations have a perpetual life

Not only must associations serve their members today, they must be prepared to serve their members in the future. Here is an important distinction…serving your current members in the future, while at the same time preparing to serve future members. These are two different things. Associations that do not do both, place themselves in peril of becoming irrelevant, and possibly extinct. The consciousness of perpetual life will help guide your association into the future.

Associations have a continuum of leadership

Decision making at associations should always be done in context. Your association is not where it is today, in the position it is in today, based upon the actions of the current leadership. It has a history as a successful organization because of the work and dedication of many years of volunteer service by others.

Associations have a continuum of membership

Have you ever had a board of directors want to give rebates to the current members because there was a revenue surplus in a particular year? What they fail to realize is that any surplus is only a surplus because the association managed its financial affairs properly. Should new members be entitled to a refund when the reason there is a surplus is many years of work by past volunteers?

Begin with the Fundamentals

Don’t assume that your board of Directors is conscious of good leadership. Provide short, simple, leadership tips and basics on a recurring basis, year after year.

Here are a few fundamental concepts exemplified by those we would consider good leaders...


Commend in public
Reprimand in private

Jobs of a Leader:
Perform their current job
Prepare for the next job
Train their successor

Follow Through:

Begin with the end in mind and work projects to completion.

Leadership is not just a position. Because one is a president, officer, or director of an association does not make one a good leader. Leadership is a skill which, for most, improves with practice and experience, over time. 

Make this year the year you create and build a “Culture of Leadership” at your association. Now is the time to set in motion simple leadership projects which will pay huge dividends to your organization in the future. If not you, who? If not now, when?

Saul Klein is a 1972 graduate of the United States Naval Academy and spent 6 years in on Active Duty in the US Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer. He has been a licensed California Real Estate Broker for 32 years and he was the 1993 President of the San Diego Association of REALTORS® and its 1999 REALTOR® of the Year. Saul was the Real Estate Industry’s first Internet Evangelist and the creator of the NAR E-PRO online Technology Certification Program and the creator of many online communities, including AETalk and RealTalk. He is the CEO of RealTown and resides in San Diego, CA with his wife Janie, who has been his inspiration for the past 35 years.

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