Despite all the attention being paid to the lifestyle preferences and work habits of millennials, generation X—the smaller generation in between the baby boomers and generation Y—is drawing the attention of ULI as the next generation of leaders in land use and real estate.
Born between 1965 and 1980, generation X is next in line to assume top executive roles within real estate, government, and the Institute itself, as those born in the baby boom after Word War II approach retirement. No group is as concerned about this transition of power, the future, and their role in it as gen Xers themselves.
A few years ago, several ULI members from this demographic began to cultivate the idea of creating a formal structure or pipeline for cultivating the Institute’s next generation of leaders. The resulting group, ULI NEXT Global, officially debuted at the 2014 ULI Fall Meeting in New York with programming and events aimed at ULI members aged 35 to 45, eager to take their career and service to the Institute to a higher level.
In establishing ULI NEXT Global, the founders acknowledged that retaining members within this age group is a concern. Several have been active within the Institute through their local Young Leaders Group (YLG) for members aged 35 and under. But as professional and family responsibilities—and the price of ULI membership—increase after age 35 and members are no longer eligible for YLG, they often wonder what lies ahead.
“When you turned 35, your dues went up and your engagement went down,” says ULI Next Global Cochair Lev Gershman, founder of and managing partner at Tideline Partners in San Diego. “A big part of our conversation was leadership—a key part of ULI’s mission statement. All of us felt there was a void [in ULI] during the most impactful time in our careers. We realized that the Institute could be a great platform for mid-career members who were emerging as leaders in their field.”
Recruiting Leaders and Providing Access to ULI’s Senior Leadership
ULI NEXT Global is not simply a peer networking or social group. Expanding professional networks and opportunities for deal making are considered benefits, but foremost on the minds of its members is the question of who will lead the Institute over the next 20 to 40 years.
“Those who will emerge as industry leaders understand how critical it is to be intentional and proactive in addressing succession planning,” says Jed Gates, a member of the ULI NEXT Global executive committee and senior vice president of client relations at Berkshire Group in San Francisco. “We want to ensure ULI’s success for generations to come; and to do that, we need people who are passionate about the organization and prioritize ULI in their lives.”
In fact, ULI NEXT Global is not open to any member who happens to be 35 to 45; the group specifically recruits individuals who have a demonstrated track record of leadership within their organizations and local ULI groups. ULI NEXT Global requires prospective members to fill out an application form with specific criteria for joining. These include being a full member, attending the Spring and Fall Meetings each year, and taking on leadership duties at their district or national councils.
Several members of ULI NEXT Global’s executive committee have been tapped to be ULI trustees themselves, including Gershman; Tracy Dodson, vice president of brokerage and development at Lincoln Harris in Charlotte, North Carolina; Calvin Gladney, managing partner at Mosaic Urban Partners in Washington, D.C.; and ULI NEXT Global Cochair Lynn Carlton.
“Our unofficial motto is: ‘The more you give, the more you get,’ ” says Carlton, director of planning at HOK’s Kansas City office and district council chair for ULI Kansas City. “We think of ULI NEXT Global as an aspirational group that members who have engaged locally with ULI and taken on leadership responsibilities can look towards as a future goal. Since our time is really stretched in so many ways, we wanted to make sure that those who had already given were being rewarded through their inclusion and participation in ULI NEXT Global.”
One of the rewards is being introduced and having access to ULI’s senior leaders—heads of product councils, governors, trustees, and members of the board of directors and operating committee. All of these groups play a critical role in determining the Institute’s programming, content, and strategic planning—yet nearly all are dominated by people over age 50.
“ULI NEXT Global is a bridge between current and future leadership, and we are confident that this group will uphold and further the mission of ULI,” says Todd Kohli, chair of communications within the executive committee, and principal and landscape architect at Populous, a global design firm.
In January 2015, the ULI trustee midwinter meeting was held in Paris, and members of ULI NEXT Global were invited to attend. Formal and informal interactions with the Institute’s senior leadership provided invaluable opportunities for ULI NEXT Global members to learn from veterans and to make their commitment to ULI known. Marcus Hale, an executive committee member and European membership liaison, was one of those who attended the Paris meeting.
“You were talking about big-picture, global issues with senior leaders in the industry, beyond the day-to-day operation of your team,” says Hale, director of design and construction at Tishman Speyer’s London office. “There was respect for the fact that we were in the room. We felt we had been recognized, that we had attained a certain level within the organization. And there was an appreciation of having younger voices present.”
Hale says the need for mentors is not limited to millennials. His generation also needs mentorship among an older generation of leaders to achieve its full potential.
Elevating ULI NEXT Global as Content Creators
Another issue that ULI NEXT Global wants to address is developing content that is relevant to members of this demographic as they move into new roles at the workplace, the Institute, and home.
“ULI NEXT Global was founded by a group of members with a special set of concerns facing those ages 35 to 45,” ULI Global CEO Patrick Phillips says. “These include career advancement strategies, work/life balance issues, and finding pathways to leadership in ULI.”
For the executive committee, content means not only subjects that pertain to generation X as consumers, but also insight that will help members stay on the cutting edge of their careers and amplify their contribution to the Institute. Gershman envisions ULI NEXT Global members moving into the roles of panelists, contributors to Urban Land, and other forms of thought leadership. “Offering exclusive and original content to ULI NEXT Global members is also part of the group’s value proposition,” Carlton says. For example, at the 2015 Fall Meeting in San Francisco, ULI NEXT Global convened a special panel of technology experts from game-changing companies like Zipcar and Airbnb—who were themselves between ages 35 and 45—to facilitate a conversation about technology and real estate among the invite-only group.
In addition, Carlton says, “It is critical that ULI NEXT Global members have their say on ULI’s major initiatives and are seen as thought leaders and content producers within the organization. We want to make sure people in our age group are at the table having important conversations about building healthy places, sustainability, and programming within ULI.”