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Houston Power Women: Meet CBRE Managing Director Lori Bryant

CBRE Houston Managing Director Lori Bryant
CBRE Houston Managing Director Lori Bryant

Bisnow's first-ever Houston Power Women event is less than a week away! In the lead-up to the big day, we'll be highlighting the event's honorees. Our next honoree is CBRE Managing Director Lori Bryant.

With over 35 years in real estate management, Bryant has risen to a leadership role at one of the industry's flagship firms. Establishing a storied career managing some of Oklahoma's largest assets for some of the state's biggest companies, Bryant recently returned to the Bayou City to focus on stewarding CBRE's local presence. 

Bisnow: Who was the first person to teach you how to be business savvy?

Bryant: My first job in property management was working for a gentleman who owned a number of shopping centers throughout Houston — Jerry J. Moore. But it was his wife, Jean Moore, that had a lasting impression on me. She was always put together, dressed for business and could have eyes of steel. I’ll never forget how she was able to hold her own in a room full of men — direct and honest without being insulting. Her demeanor demanded respect. She never asked anyone for permission to have a strong opinion. Yet, she was one of the kindest and most generous people I knew at the time.

Bisnow: What is the biggest challenge for the next generation of women?

Bryant: There are many challenges ahead, especially in leadership roles. For women who choose to have a family, it will be challenging to achieve work-life balance the further they move up the ladder. Although many young men are taking their household and family responsibilities more seriously than their fathers and grandfathers did, it is still rare to find a household that is truly 50-50. This makes it harder for women to raise their hands for the difficult, time-consuming assignments that are stepping stones to promotion. It makes it tough to engage in those all-important networking activities that take place outside of work hours. And, it can make leaders pass women over for promotion, from a conscious or unconscious belief that they will have time constraints that negatively impact their job. 

Bisnow: What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

Bryant: This is a great question — I’m not sure I know the most significant barrier, but there are still too many. There have been numerous studies and articles stating that more women have college degrees than men and are better suited for leadership positions than ever before. Yet, only 16% of women serve on corporate boards. What is even more discouraging is that these low numbers are not significantly higher than those in many developing nations. One of the uncomfortable realities of being a female leader is walking into a business meeting and realizing that you’re one of the few women (if not the only woman) in the room. In such a meeting, females who assert themselves don’t know if they’ll be perceived as a respected leader or just a “bossy woman.” Women leaders need to be more direct and honest — and not shy away from speaking about their accomplishments for fear of being boastful or conceited. Traditionally, women have not been socialized to compete successfully in the world of men, so they must be taught the skills and styles their male counterparts acquire as a matter of course. Young girls don’t grow up dreaming about being CEO of their own company one day — they simply don’t see themselves in that role. We need more role models to shift the paradigm.

Bisnow: What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

Bryant: For a leader to be effective, they must maintain many skills. They must be able to inspire confidence and trust in others. If one truly finds something they have a passion for and are willing to try new things, then others will follow that passion. If one treats people with respect and encourages others to grow, they build trust. Above all, true leaders don’t give up — they keep trying, no matter how bumpy the road is. I used to have a poster in my office with the following quote — “The same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg. It’s about what you’re made of, not the circumstances.” You will only know your limits if you continually test them. Every generation, every business, every human being faces challenges — that’s not the point. The point is what you do with them, and how you adapt and grow through them.

Bisnow: What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?

Bryant: Currently, I’m responsible for almost 250 employees in our Property Management division. Every decision I make may impact their career path or financial security. I try to make decisions that will support them, inspire them and provide the tools they need to perform well. Sometimes, the most important decision is to include them in the decision-making process. Employees need to feel empowered to creatively solve problems and pave their own path to success. This increases their job satisfaction and they become a more productive member of the organization. This is good for the team, the company and our bottom line.

Honor Lori Bryant and other women who shaped Houston at Bisnow's Houston Power Women event Dec. 11.