While her career path and accomplishments are impressive by any measure, perhaps the most important thing to know about National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) interim CEO Nykia Wright—right now, in this moment—is that she is no stranger to handling adversity. Having served as a media CEO during a challenging period of upheaval, Wright is comfortable with handling the uncomfortable, and experienced in spearheading transformation.

Having stepped in as interim CEO shortly after the ground-shaking Burnett verdict, Wright's attention has been turned inward, focused on handling NAR's legal challenges as well as ongoing controversy within the association. Wright recently broke the silence, however, in a strongly-worded video to members last month, and now, through exclusive responses to RISMedia interview questions, she shares further insights and details on her plans for sparking needed change and leading the association and the industry through this period of strife.

Maria Patterson: Your background is extremely robust and diverse. How did your path lead to NAR and the real estate industry?

Nykia Wright: My executive expertise lies in organizational transformation and long-term strategy. Over my 20-year career, I have played significant roles in private equity transactions, served as an adviser to Fortune 100 companies, and served as the CEO of a media outlet during a period of industry upheaval. The unifying thread throughout these ventures has been my passion for supporting mission-driven organizations through periods of challenge and transformation—both in an advisory capacity and in executive leadership roles. During my time as a business broker, I learned firsthand the value that mission-based associations bring to any industry, and I wanted to bring that experience to this role at NAR.

While there are challenges and opportunities facing the real estate industry, what is even clearer to me now is that there is a strong foundation of commitment and hard work that underpins this association and the members we support. Looking to the future, I'm confident that NAR will emerge from this period as a stronger organization.

MP: As a journalist, your role at the Chicago Sun-Times is particularly impressive to me. What are you taking away from that experience that translates to leading NAR?

NW: When I joined the Chicago Sun-Times as COO and later CEO, the organization was facing declining readership and a host of industry-wide challenges. Public mistrust, different views on our value proposition, and trying to survive in a hyper-competitive industry were the most immediate challenges.

Upon joining NAR, I saw a similar throughline. In the months since, I've been reminded of this commitment through NAR's work as a leader, steward and advocate for the real estate industry and homeowners across our country. Even before joining NAR, I had been a firm believer in this mission. It is this belief that emboldens me to lead NAR during a period of transformation, just as I did at the Chicago Sun-Times through its transformation. NAR has evolved over the years and has both led and reacted to external forces driving change. There is significant opportunity ahead to continue to shape our industry.

MP: What are your thoughts on the recent launch of AREA, and other competitive associations that may arise?

NW: Competition is good for every industry—and real estate is no different. NAR's members compete for business in every single transaction, and they expect their association to be just as competitive. While we welcome competition from anyone who can match our impact and deliver the kind of value we bring, NAR will continue to offer the best resources, support and innovation in our industry.

MP: Several major real estate brands and organizations are moving away from endorsing NAR membership. How will you seek to rebuild these relationships?

NW: We have certainly heard some brands' frustration with NAR. While we won't share our strategic playbook for addressing their frustration publicly, we acknowledge that there are some relationships we have to work to rebuild, and we are hard at work doing so. Members have always had the choice of whether to take advantage of the many benefits this association can provide, and we are working to ensure that they will again choose NAR to utilize this value.

MP: What is your take on current membership satisfaction, and what is your strategy for improving it?

NW: NAR's priorities are shaped by member input and feedback, and that is more important than ever. It's my firm belief that listening to our 1.5 million members and addressing their needs is paramount to our progress forward as an association. We've gone directly to our members to learn more about how they view us, and we've learned that an overwhelming majority trust in what we are doing to transform the organization. Our goal is to maintain their existing trust and recommit ourselves to earning back their confidence.

As part of this work, I've prioritized providing our members with timely updates about the important efforts underway that will strengthen NAR and best position us to continue leading our industry forward. Bottom line, the clearest way to lead our industry is to continue to deliver great value to our members and the consumers they serve. We do that through our industry-leading advocacy in Washington and in statehouses across the country; by offering cutting-edge business tools, educational opportunities, advanced economic research, national property data and various other benefits; and by continuing to evolve to support our mission to preserve, protect and advance the right to real property for all. Despite the challenges we've faced in recent months, these valuable services continue uninterrupted.

MP: How far has NAR progressed in resolving its personnel/HR issues? What are you doing to improve the culture of the association?

NW: NAR remains as committed as ever to the important work of strengthening our organization. We are engaged in this work with the clear understanding that addressing cultural challenges takes time and requires sustained attention and action.

Our work so far has been carried forward through several initiatives, including the Policies and Procedures Task Force and the Culture Transformation Commission (CTC), and supported by the expansion of our HR team, now led by Karyn Detje, who recently joined on an interim basis to spearhead HR transformation. The CTC, whose commissioners represent members, state and local association staff, and NAR staff, has gathered information and input from across the association and is now working toward producing transformative recommendations designed to shape our culture moving forward. This thoughtful process cannot be carried out without the input of those professionals who hold decades of institutional knowledge about NAR. We plan on implementing the most feasible of their ideas, first testing them across the organization with the clear understanding that any work is subject to refinement in order to ultimately reach success. I am working in concert with Karyn and her team to ensure NAR does this in an efficient and responsible way. It is important that our efforts to improve our association's culture and strengthen its HR function advance cohesively with clear direction.

MP: How effective is NAR's current lobbying position? Will there be any change to this strategy?

NW: NAR's advocacy operation is very effective and has played instrumental roles in several important housing policy issues in recent years, including improving access to Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans to help more Americans buy homes; securing the first-time homebuyer tax credits; and eliminating additional mortgage fees in a high interest rate and high-cost environment. These and other NAR efforts have saved consumers millions of dollars in the past year.

With the 2024 election cycle in full swing, NAR and its REALTORS® Political Action Committee (RPAC) will once again play an important role in advocating for the interests of America's REALTORS® and the consumers they serve. With nearly every committee in Congress touching on issues related to small business, housing and the economy, NAR's advocacy work is crucial to fighting for homeownership, real estate investment, property rights and strong communities. We remain committed to our industry-leading advocacy endeavors that have resulted in enhanced access to homeownership, a boost in housing inventory, more efficient affordable housing programs, broader economic opportunities and strides toward ensuring fair housing for everyone.

MP: Given the controversy with Kenny Parcell and then Tracy Kasper, will the existing nomination and election process for NAR leadership change at all?

NW: NAR's governance policies and procedures, set by the membership, are in place to ensure transparent and effective nomination and election processes. As leaders begin and continue in their roles, we will consult these policies to ensure they are evolving based upon member feedback and that the decisions being made continue to be in service of NAR's mission. We have multiple member and staff-led bodies that are currently developing recommendations for the Leadership Team to consider.

MP: What is your game plan for fighting NAR's legal challenges going forward?

NW: We recognize that the outcome of the pending cases could have a significant impact on the real estate industry, which employs millions of people and represents approximately 17% of the country's GDP, and we are working daily toward solutions that will ultimately benefit consumers and our members.

MP: What is your plan for ensuring that NAR survives as the dominant trade association for real estate professionals?

NW: We are fully engaged on the legal, business and advocacy issues that are top priority to our members and, most importantly, the consumers they serve. We value the input of all of our 1.5 million members on how we can best support them and the consumers they serve. Over the past two months, we have engaged with many stakeholder groups to understand where we have fallen short and to get recommendations so that we are not just the most impactful, but also the most trusted.