The events of the past month relating to the national borrowing limit and the nation’s credit score have provided one of the most dramatic wake-up calls in American history. For both those who have understood the connection and those who have denied the growing evidence, there is now irrefutable proof that our nation, our real estate marketplace and our industry are deep in the throes of a revolution that will forever change our approach to democracy, free enterprise and real estate.

Virtually every American and certainly those who are associated with the real estate industry will, or should, over the next few months, find themselves engaged in an intense internal debate regarding what leadership role they will play over the next year as an individual, a citizen and a real estate business person or professional.

The following thoughts are offered for the purpose of activating and assisting this critical discussion. Agreement with the specifics is not necessary but the adoption of counterpoints is mandatory.

Start by focusing on the relationship between ongoing change and absolute loss. Over the past five years, much of our collective reasoning has gone into understanding the dynamics of change.

It is time that we as a community recognize that the mass array of changes that we have encountered over the past several years that have come together to create a whole new American and real estate environment with its own dynamics. For those whose vision of the future has centered on a return of the good old days, that miracle is not going to happen. Recognize that it is grief from loss rather than a dread of change that we need to deal with first.

This redefinition of purpose becomes even more appropriate when we revisit the five stages of grief, (1) denial and isolation, (2) anger, (3) bargaining, (4) depression and (5) acceptance. We immediately recognize these stages as the behaviors we are currently witnessing in our friends, associates, clients and fellow REALTORS® as they struggle to accommodate the new political and market environment we all face every day.

Over the next several months at various times and at individual paces, we will hopefully reach the point of acceptance and from that juncture we will begin the task of rebuilding this great country and our dynamic industry. We will replace our current attitude of denial and anger with the innovative spirit and creative energies that built our industry in the first place.

We must quickly come to the realization that that there is a very limited amount of time to do what has to be done. At the present time, a serious vacuum exists with respect to our industry and its response to the new environment. Even now, would-be competitors are positioning themselves for the right moment to launch as a rehabilitative force into a dispirited and disorganized real estate industry and marketplace. By way of example, we have written previously about the Lowes organization whose presence now appears at every real estate function in the country and is building tens of thousands of working relationships with consumers through intimate and highly scored home remodeling and renovation assignments.

The silver bullet for success and salvation in this new environment is both simple and impossibly complex. The solution is effective, applied and non-sanded down leadership all levels of the culture. Only leadership can be the saving grace for both America and the real estate industry. This cannot be the canned noncommittal leadership of the past several years. Moreover, everyone, including the newest member, must rise to this leadership challenge.

At the present time, the entrenched leadership elements within the American and REALTOR® cultures are comprised of six elements; (1) Those presently involved in leadership, (2) those in the leadership “chairs,” (3) past leaders, (4) dissidents, (5) the executives and (6) the members. Each of these players must determine whether their role will be positive, contributory, critical or opportunistic.

Together these individuals have the power to carry the day. Individually they and we are destined to continue the ineffective dog and pony show that we are currently witnessing and that has now become a part of our daily lives at both the local and national scenes.

Individuals currently in leadership must immediately step up and quit worrying about their next leadership role. Those coming up through the ranks must start acting like leaders and not actors in a green room waiting for their shot at the top.

Past leaders must also rise to the occasion, but only after undertaking to understand precisely how the present situation differs from the environment in which they last exercised leadership.

Dissidents who wish to make a positive difference in the situation must be willing to offer constructive solutions that can be utilized within an organizational framework as well as much needed constructive criticism that keeps projects on target. Dissidents whose real interests lie in other outcomes must be treated like the organizational terrorists that they are.

America’s executives, including association CEOs, must rise to the occasion by exercising leadership consistent with the roles set out in the Race for Relevance, by Harrison Coerver. The time for traditional management tactics, retirement strategies and status quo foot dragging is over. Executives must present themselves as part of the solution or be identified as part of the problem.

Finally, we come to the citizen and member. Over the last several years, everyone discussed above has represented themselves as speaking for you. No one at the table believes that representation and everyone involved knows that no one speaks for those who don’t speak for themselves. You have as much or more to lose as anyone discussed here. If you fail to engage, you will find that the new order will simply leave you out of the equation.

Another challenge will arise out of the fact that this is the first American leadership crisis in which social media will be a participant. While the potential of social media to engage millions of new decision-makers in the renovation is an incredibly rich and exciting opportunity, it is also fraught with dangers. We must revisit Charlene Li’s comments in her book Groundswell, in which she taught us that at any given time, 25% of individuals acting within the social media sphere are in a critical mode while only 18% are in a contributory mode. While this formula has worked well for disenfranchised groups working within the initial scope and influence of the early history of the social media movement, it is not clear that an environment in which criticism outweighs creative and innovative solutions will provide the level of original thought necessary to turn a nation and an industry around. This is a serious chapter in our history and it will require serious leadership to survive. Begin today to plan for an early fall leadership conference that addresses the real issues in a direct fashion. We can do this.