In its last FLINTerview of the semester, the Flintridge Prep Leadership Initiative (FLINT) welcomed back to campus Ryan Leslie ’11, who currently works in commercial acquisitions at CBRE Global Investors, a real estate investment management company.
After sharing a few of the major projects he’s worked on at CBRE, Leslie told the students a bit more about his career path after Prep. After earning an economics degree at Georgetown University, he interned at various financial institutions until he finally found what he really loved doing. Leslie’s on the front line at CBRE, interacting with and building relationships with investors.
“While I don’t manage anyone currently, that doesn’t mean that I’m not exhibiting leadership every day in every aspect of my work,” Leslie said. He singled out four essential leadership characteristics that he’s observed in others and that he tries to embody. For Leslie, they’re a strong work ethic, the ability to connect with people, excellent communication skills and a self-starter personality—all of which he cultivated while at Prep.
Leslie acknowledged that it wasn’t until his sophomore year that he began to apply himself at school. The shift occurred when his history teacher, the late Mike Mullins, taught Leslie the value of hard work. “Work ethic is what will lead to success,” he said, adding that he’s carried this lesson with him into every job.
Leslie made a point of distinguishing between the concept of connecting with people and being a strong communicator. While these skills seem similar, to him they’re distinct and synergetic. Building relationships allows you to be outgoing and comfortable talking with anyone. Communicating well means knowing how to tell a story, whether through numbers, words or actions. Together, these characteristics make you a stronger leader who can relate to others and stand out from the crowd.
Being a self-starter means taking the initiative to do something without being told. Leslie does that every day at CBRE, spending non-work hours researching information about emerging industries and market trends to have a more holistic knowledge of a project. He credits the Prep environment—where students are encouraged to be involved in clubs, extracurriculars, sports and more—as shaping this quality.
“When you’re 17 and 18, you are sometimes checking the box of what colleges want when you do extracurriculars or advanced classes,” Leslie said. “It took me a long time to realize that yes, colleges will want to see these, but all of the clubs, sports and initiatives I was part of at Prep made me who I am today. It’s hard to realize this as a teenager, but Prep nurtured these skills and gave me the opportunity to grow as a person.”