Doers do, but leaders must still understand.

Real Estate involves a lot of specializations.  Location , retail , healthcare, finance, supply chain, manufacturing, tax, incentives, architects, designers, strategists, etc.  Lots of people.  That’s a lot of disciplines that need to be understood if you are leading a complex project involving multiple disciplines.  And you can either lead them all yourself or you bring in specialist leaders to just handle their little piece individually.

So this leaves you the option of learning something about each one of those or handing off responsibility.  Which do you do?

HBR ran a great article about whether MBAs should learn to code.  While the actual example used suffers from a number of statistical short-comings (small sample size, self-selecting respondents) the point is a good one.  Just because you, yourself, will not be doing the coding doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know how to.  Learning to do something (even if only through an introductory class) teaches you the language, the thought processes and the methods used by the people you have to lead.

Language is important to all of us.  It’s how we communicate ideas and desires.  It’s how we let people know what we need from them.  If we use words that don’t mean what we think they mean we will not communicate effectively.  For those that work with developers, you will often here the phrase “don’t let that person talk to the developer, they speak different languages.”  They both speak fluent English but they are not equipped to understand the way each other need problems and solutions to be framed.

Now take that same scenario and apply it to Accountants, Business Analysts, Construction Managers, Architects, CEOs, CFOs, Designers, Consultants, Tax Professionals…..that’s a lot of communication contexts that need to be kept straight.  And the only way to do it is to live in each of those worlds for a time and absorb the cultures and the words.  Some may be transferable between each other but others may be night and day – and sometimes you’ll be surprised by which don’t have matching vocabularies (I’m looking at you Finance versus Tax).