Crystal Dukes: The Four Hallmarks of a Successful Leader – 40U40

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By Evan C. Loving

Crystal Dukes knows that in order to be a successful leader in any industry, you must value four things: growth mindsets, adaptability, inclusive environments, and empowerment. As Director of Education, Training, and DEI at RealSource Properties, a leading national multifamily real estate company, Crystal understands the necessity of these core values to support her clients and the company mission.  

“Having a growth mindset means always being willing to learn! From your mistakes, from your failures, from anything that life throws at you, learn from it and be better,” she says. “Change in inevitable, industries shift all the time, so you have to be able to adapt to different environments go with the flow.” 

“For example, as Director of Education and Training I am responsible for the design and implementation of all onboarding initiatives, leadership development, compliance, and mentoring programs at RealSource. Earlier this year, the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) component was added to my role, so I took on the responsibility of overseeing all aspects of diversity and inclusion within the organization.” 

With the addition of DEI to her title, Crystal pivoted to integrate inclusive and empowering practices into company initiatives and programming to foster a culture of continuous learning. 

“Creating an inclusive environment invites your associates to feel a sense of psychological safety, which allows them to take risks, ask questions, and share ideas,” she explains. “It is easy to pinpoint someone’s weaknesses (we all have them), but empowering associates by identifying their strengths and giving them a pathway to develop is the true mark of effective leadership.” 

When asked to recognize a true leader and mentor in her own career, Crystal readily states: “That’s an easy one. Kathy Felix, Regional Manager at PEG Properties.” Crystal describes Kathy as her biggest sponsor and someone whose support “made all the difference in the trajectory of my career.”  

“She taught me to boldly lead my teams but made sure I understood that it could not be done without compassion,” she says. “Not only did Kathy make me a better leader, but she also made me a better person, and I will forever call her my friend.” 

Crystal’s advice for future leaders is earnest and, to Kathy’s credit, compassionate:  “Stay the course. Especially in the DE&I space. This work is not easy, but it is worth it.  And, even if imposter syndrome sneaks up on you, remember that you deserve to be in the room, so settle in and take up some space. 

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