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The interests of real estate businesses intersect with the interests of governments, often, although they are not necessarily aligned.  The presidential campaign of Donald Trump offers a teachable moment which shows why character matters, for at least three reasons.

The evidence says that Trump insults others frequently and making “them” into an enemy of some kind.  His campaign shows that you can go a long way by insulting people.  It also indicates that insulting people also makes enemies of people, which reduces the chances of success.

This is relevant since a common test of the character is the Golden Rule: treat others as you wish to be treated.  So, it is instructive to see how he reacts when others insult him.

Character matters, in politics and in real estate, because so much of getting things done is about groups of people doing things together.  Important projects are complicated and involve many people.  Thus, it is easy to get lost in a swamp of details, petty insults, to forget that goal and to react badly to somebody else’s behaviour.

Whenever real estate business intersects with government, as it often does, voices may be raised.  Often everybody is unhappy about something.  Insults may fly even during friendly negotiations.  If that were the end, nothing would happen.  That consequence matters in politics especially because governments rarely operate as a top-down or hierarchical organization.  Success often depends on finding allies.

Character matters because allies are important, and allies rarely like being insulted.

I have listened to discussions during this American election and I am impressed at how closely it matches a 20 year old movie The American President.  Its story contrasts the verbal insults of a presidential wannabe with the high-pressure decision-making environment of a sitting President.  I think that its pivotal speech is amazingly relevant to many topics debated today.

Politically popular decisions are usually obvious. A dilemma is that, for any issue, different advocates can give good reasons why their preferred solution would be popular with others.

But the popular decision is not necessarily the right decision.  Being popular is easy.  It is harder to tell somebody that they are wrong.

By their nature, important decisions are hard decisions, where the consequences may be in the distant future and affect people whose names are not known.  The discussions concerning sustainability is a recent example: Should the government impose a carbon tax of some kind?  Using ideas from NetZero and LEED, should builders target more sustainable buildings?  The immediate costs are usually obvious and the people who bear those costs usually express their opinions loudly.  It takes a strength of character and some skill in persuasion to move forward on something which is unpopular currently.

In the real estate business, as in politics, character matters because the benefits of good decisions are felt for many decades after.