Sam Zell: Chairman Of Everything, CEO Of Nothing

This Sam Zell quote really has wormed its way into my head, 

I often say I’m chairman of everything and the CEO of nothing. I stick to what I’m good at – vision, direction, strategy. That’s where I add the most value. I spend almost my entire day listening to other people. I ask questions, I probe, I raise possibilities.

I have met a lot of people who will think, “Hey this applies to me too!” Spoiler: the reason it doesn’t, is they spend all day talking and not listening to other people. 

Part of why Zell was so remarkable is his listening abilities.  

To his gut, to his people, to the markets. 

There’s still a ton of doing in this quote. It’s NOT just all about the delegating, where “I’m the strategy guy and somebody else will get this done.” The listening that goes into the doing and delegating… that’s the part that’s so powerful.  

In 2007 when Zell famously top-ticked the real estate market with a $39 billion office building sale to Blackstone, he saw the market getting frothy, got Blackstone and Vornado to the table with low break-up/walkaway fees, and sold for a price he himself would never buy for. 

You never find that deal unless you’re listening. Legend.