Leaders Light Their World

Carry your candle, run to the darkness, Seek out the helpless, deceived and poor
Hold our your candle, for all to see it, Take your candle, go light your world.

Chris Rice, Go Light Your World

A few days ago, I witnessed character-based leadership in action.  We talk quite a bit about character-based leadership in this group and on this site.  Character-based leadership is leading from who you are, rather than your position or power.  A person of character, who is also believed to be capable, generates energy and effort that is contributed by others.  Seth Godin called it emotional labor in Linchpin.  People submit to character-based leaders and align themselves and their effort to the cause.

At the Chinowth & Cohen Realtors awards banquet, Sheryl Chinowth and Lee Cohen hosted over 300 members of their organization, "Oklahoma's Real Estate Elite," to dinner, dancing and an awards ceremony.  My wife has been associated with Chinowth & Cohen since their first year in business, just 7 years ago.  In the few awards banquets I've been to, I've noticed a reasonably tight-knit group of independent real estate agents.  I've noticed many of the same faces over the years and many of the same award winners.  However I was struck by a difference this year that motivated this post.

The year 2010 was a difficult year for every industry, but after manufacturing, probably no industry had a tougher year than the real estate industry.  Housing has been in a terrible slump since 2009 and even with government tax subsidies and other enticements, people buying homes are few and their expectations are very high.

But light is more clearly seen in the dark.

In the midst of our global and local economy, Sheryl and Lee have resisted the temptation to contract, lay off, hunker down, demonstrate fear or take the defensive.  Sure, they're careful, but they're careful to invest in and support the people and the organization that many referred to as family.  You don't just lay off family.  You don't just tell your family no.  You find ways to make the best of the situation.  Twenty-ten was a year when people learned where they fit on the "family tree."  Lee and Sheryl resisted the temptation to draw a small circle around the "few."  You could see energy, appreciation, hope and courage on the faces of the associates and everyone in the room.

Sheryl and Lee invest the best of who they are to serve the community of Chinowth & Cohen.  That's character-based leadership in action.

The theme of the night was "Singing in the Rain" because in spite of the hard year, they were determined to make the best of it.  There were stories of success and difficulty, inspiration and sacrifice.  Even in the difficult year, Chinowth & Cohen opened two new offices.  They gave dozens of awards.  One agent's wife endured quite a transition as her husband took the actions necessary to launch a successful practice during his rookie year, and for that she won the "Wind Beneath My Wings" award.  There were other inspiring stories of contribution and sacrifice that one seldom sees in organizations where it's "every man for themselves."  Sheryl and Lee have invested their character, their who-they-are, in the lives of the associates of this organization.

Instead of Singing in the Rain, the lyrics to Chris Rice's Go Light Your World came to mind.  Sheryl and Lee have taken the light of who-they-are and run into the economic darkness of our time.  Their effort lights up the Tulsa sky and the faces and hearts of the people associated with their organization.  As a Tulsa area resident and spouse of an associate, I want to say thanks to them for their contribution to our community.  Their investment and sacrifice in their Chinowth & Cohen family lights the world.

Lyrics by Chris Rice © Universal Music.  Photo by iStockPhoto

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