Michelle Walker

The 2019 Women’s Council of REALTORS® Inaugural Leadership Institute class with past NAR presidents. Seated in front, from left to right, 2003 President Catherine B. Whatley (Jacksonville, Fla.), 1999 President Sharon A. Millett (Auburn, ME), 2007 President Pat V. Combs.
REALTORS® Legislative Meetings and Trade Expo

Today will go down as a highlight in my leadership journey. Three past presidents of the National Association of REALTORS® led our Leadership Institute’s afternoon session. These lady leaders are three of only six female past presidents of NAR. These leading ladies started their leadership journey with the Women’s Council of REALTORS®. They shared from the heart and provided amazing leadership insights.

The bond between these leaders was evident as they shared their individual leadership stories. In 1999, Sharon A. Millett served as the second ever female president of the National Association of REALTORS®. She was followed by 2003 President Catherine B. Whatley and 2007 President Pat V. Combs. Their leadership paths were quite different and they became best friends along the way.

Sharon Millett was referred to by the others as the “kind one.” She started her career by temporarily helping her husband at his real estate office. Sharon said, “If you believe in it and it’s the right thing to do, do it.” She shared that her experience on presidential advisory groups shaped her journey. Her number one tip for upcoming leaders is to always be prepared.

Cathy Whatley referred to herself as the “mean one” and she was introduced to association leadership by her father, who served as a state association president. A couple of her statements that really stuck with me were, “It’s not about us,” and, “The higher you get in leadership, the longer it takes to accomplish anything.” She encouraged us to be authentic.

Pat Combs was called the “fun one.” She encouraged us to follow our passions and shared that her passion is Fair Housing. Pat was inspirational as she shared that her journey included stepping back to take care of her husband. She told us to always put family first. After her husband passed away, her grown children pushed her to re-engage and move forward in leadership. Pat’s best advice was, “Know and learn ahead of everyone, so that you are never left behind.”

Their leadership journeys differed, and their personalities were just as unique. Their journeys included many supportive men and women, and they shared that mentors are critical to leadership success. The Women’s Council of REALTORS® National Leadership Institute is proving to be an amazing journey. Our class is full of uniquely wonderful leading ladies from across the nation and I am honored to be a part of the inaugural class.