Updated: Jan 23
We are so thrilled to shine a light on a very special real estate industry leader this week. Leslie, Sara, and Debra sat down with Leslie Rouda Smith for an intimate conversation about her journey to becoming the 2022 NAR President.
If you attended the 2019 WomanUP!® Conference in San Diego, you had the opportunity to hear a slice of her story. Pull up a chair and listen in as we hear more about the challenges she has overcome, her vision for 2022, and what she’s most looking forward to in the year ahead!
Leslie Rouda Smith (ABR®, AHWD, C2EX, CIPS, CRB, CRS®, e-PRO®, PMN), has been a REALTOR® for 36 years. She is from Plano, Texas… and is the 2022 President of the National Association of REALTORS®.
Leslie is a broker associate at Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate in Dallas, where she specializes in residential, ranch, and country real estate along with her husband Brian and their children, Kristin and Austin, all of whom are REALTORS®.
At the national level, Leslie has been a member of NAR’s Board of Directors since 2009 and has served several years on the Executive Committee. In 2017, she was the vice president for Region 10, comprised of Louisiana and Texas, and she chaired the “Future of the REALTOR® Party” PAG. In 2013, she served on the NAR Leadership Team as vice president.
In 2009 and 2011, she served as a liaison for two NAR past presidents. Also in 2011, she chaired the Leadership Academy Advisory Board, served as the political fundraising liaison, and served on Presidential Advisory Groups for political survival as well as National Flood Insurance Program implementation. In 2008, Leslie chaired the Professional Development Committee.
Leslie is very active in REALTOR® Party activities. She has been a member of the RPR, LLC Board of Directors, and was a longtime Regent for the REALTOR® University. She has experience serving on numerous NAR committees, including Finance, Strategic Thinking, Communications, and Research.
At the state level, Leslie was the 2016 Chairman of the Board of Texas REALTORS®. She has served on their Board of Directors for multiple terms. She was named their 2018 REALTOR® of the Year and received the Texas REALTORS® Distinguished Service Award in 2014. She was the founder of the Texas REALTORS® State YPN Network.
Leslie is a past recipient of the Salesperson of the Year award from a local association. She received REALTOR® of the Year from her local board, the Collin County Association of REALTORS® in Plano, Texas. She served as president of the Dallas network of the Women’s Council of REALTORS® in 1998, and in 2014, she was named Entrepreneur of the Year for the Texas Women’s Council of REALTORS® Network.
Active in her community, Leslie has volunteered on behalf of affordable housing programs, neighborhood revitalization, and housing opportunity initiatives. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications from the Ohio State University, where she was named an Outstanding Young Alumni.
Tell us about your leadership journey… What led you to this moment and to becoming our 2022 NAR President?
A positive attitude and determination can take you a long way.
But first and foremost, I have to give credit to my family. My husband Brian and I are a team in every sense, and neither of us would be where we are without one another.
His support, encouragement, and love get me through every day and helped me to get where I am now.
I also wouldn’t be here without my father — 1991 NAR President Harley Rouda – who taught me so much about this industry by encouraging me to work in it.
I was doing relo work in high school and college!
I was also fortunate to have the godmother of real estate mentors, Ebby Halliday, a pioneering Texan who paved the way for me and thousands of other women in real estate.
Finally, I have to plug a life-changing organization, the Women’s Council of REALTORS.
Women’s Council helped me develop my strengths – and overcome my fears, including my fear of public speaking – to climb the leadership ladder in the REALTOR organization.
So, of course, it took a lot of hard work to get where I am – but I give a lot of credit to having a strong support group at home, and an amazing group of inspiring women surrounding me every step of my career.
As you look back, tell us about a challenge you faced. Perhaps it was a risky move that didn’t pay off, a failed project, a fork in the road, or a personal mishap. How did you address it? Did you ask for help?
Ooooooh! Listen in to hear her reply...
Leslie, you’re the 7th female president in NAR’s nearly 115-year history and will lead a seven-member leadership team that is majority female for the first time ever, for a trade organization that is two-thirds female!
What project or program are you most excited about working on with your team? Why?
I am so proud to lead a history-making Leadership Team in 2022. NAR is strengthened as an organization by all the diverse perspectives this year’s Leadership Team brings to the table.
Every new voice, every new perspective that we bring into the fold improves our ability to serve our members.
One of the things I’m most excited to work with this team on is continuing NAR’s embrace of D-E-I and our Fair Housing initiatives.
And we also have to be honest about our industry’s troubled history when it comes to equity and fairness. That’s why I’m really proud of our commitment to instilling D-E-I values throughout the association’s culture.
We’ve made advancing Fair Housing legislation one of the focal points of our advocacy agenda.
We are also offering members a new DEI course, called REALTOR L.E.A.D. DEI, which covers everything from the difference between equity and equality, to how you can promote a sense of belonging in your organization.
Check out all of NAR’s education opportunities here: NAR.realtor/education
There are three lenses through which I’m thinking about all of our plans and initiatives for the year.
I call them my “Three S’s.”
They are: safety, strength, and sustainability.
Our emphasis on safety is key to how we are putting members first. We have to be sure that we are giving brokers and agents the tools and resources they need to protect themselves on the job, and to get home safely every single day.
For the next S, I want us to all to think about strength.
With over one-point-five Million members, our strength in numbers is uniquely powerful. But this is also about focusing inward, on the strength of mind and body. Pandemic life has taken its toll on our mental and physical health. We cannot be effective in our jobs if we aren’t doing right by our personal health and prioritizing our well-being. NAR is committed to ensuring the strength of our voice, of our industry, and of our members.
I’ve got one more “S” for you, and it’s a big one – sustainability.
You’ll be hearing a lot about sustainability because it’s not just one of my “S’s”; addressing sustainability head-on is a top strategic initiative for the 2022 Leadership Team.
REALTORS are critical to driving vibrant, healthy, and resilient communities – whether urban, suburban, or rural – which means that REALTORS are in the best position to lead. Brian and I own and manage ranchland in North Texas. It’s our favorite way of getting some fresh air and staying connected to the environment. Our natural and built environments share space and resources – and both require good stewardship. So, sustainability must be a factor in everything we do — a part of our decision-making process.
In fact, just this week, NAR released our inaugural E-S-G-plus-R report, highlighting our top accomplishments in sustainability across four categories: environmental, social, governance, and resilience.
I really want to encourage folks to read this report and learn about our sustainability efforts – just visit NAR-dot-REALTOR-slash-sustainability.
We still have so much to study and explore in this space, and sustainability is truly one of my favorite topics, so stay tuned! There is much more to come.
What upcoming challenges would you say every brokerage owner needs to have on her radar? Any ideas on how she can prepare for it?
There are really so many unique challenges to be prepared for today.
One way the pandemic changed our way of life, is it changed how we think about what we do for a living. So one thing all brokers should be thinking about is the so-called “Great Resignation,” or the recent spike in Americans leaving their jobs for any number of reasons. If you are trying to attract agents or hold onto your top talent, you need to find ways to differentiate your brokerage.
Think about your value adds.
What kind of work-life balance do your employees have?
Have you built a culture that recognizes everyone’s individual value?
If you’re not sure about the answer to those questions, know that’s what your current employees and/or prospective employees are thinking about.
Connect with Leslie:
Listen in to hear Leslie's Rapid Fire Replies!
What was your first job?
After being a Realtor and NAR President… What is your dream job?
What is the first thing you do in the morning?
We hear you have quite a few nicknames… what are a couple of your favorites?
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