Overcoming Adversities and Becoming a Leader: The Monzer Hourani Story

This groundbreaking leadership research by has received extensive endorsements and enthusiastic reviews from well-known prominent business, political, and academic leaders who either participated in the study or reviewed the research findings. You will discover the proven success habits and secrets of people who, in spite of difficult or life threatening challenges shaped their own destiny to become successful, effective leaders. The full results of this research will be presented in the upcoming book by Dr. Howard Edward Haller titled “Leadership: View from the Shoulders of Giants.”

The nine initial prominent successful leaders who overcame adversity that were interviewed included: Dr. Tony Bonanzino, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, Monzer Hourani, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, Dr. John Malone, Larry Pino, U.S. Army Major General Sid Shachnow, Dr. Blenda Wilson, and Zig Ziglar.

The data from the above nine research participants was materially augmented by seven other successful leaders who overcame adversity including: Jack Canfield, William Draper III, Mark Victor Hansen, J. Terrence Lanni, Angelo Mozilo, Dr. Nido Qubein, and Dr. John Sperling.

Additionally, five internationally known and respected leadership scholars offered their reviews of the leadership research findings including: Dr. Ken Blanchard, Jim Kouzes, Dr. John Kotter, Dr. Paul Stoltz, and Dr. Meg Wheatley.

This is a short biography of one of the principal participants who generously contributed their time and insight for this important research into the phenomenon of how prominent successful leaders overcome adversity and obstacles. This is Monzer Hourani’s story:

Monzer Hourani was born in what was then Palestine, in 1944. He shared that “we are a Lebanese Christian family, from southern Lebanon. We’ve been there for ages. Our family was a major land owner in Palestine . . . . but when Israel became a state, we were forced out of Israel.” The Hourani family returned to southern Lebanon to rebuild their lives and try to rebuild their fortune.

Unfortunately, civil war, which began in Lebanon in the late 1950s and continued for years, would devastate Lebanon in general and the Hourani family in particular. Monzer commented that “starting in 1958 there was a civil war in Lebanon. My mother was killed on my fourteenth birthday, right in front of me. Unfortunate thing happened, so, it’s very tragic in my opinion.” During the civil war, he did not know for weeks whether his family had survived the various battles.

Monzer said, “I was offered a scholarship to go to Russia, to a major university, in physics, but I refused it. I really wanted to come to the U.S., because I liked the west, in fact, I liked John Wayne.” He applied and was admitted to the University of Texas in Austin. He spoke primarily French with very limited English. At the University of Texas “they had a French professor and a physics professor to do the exams.” Monzer arrived in the U.S. in 1965, studied at the University of Texas, in Austin and “graduated in 1969 with a degree in Architecture and a second degree in Structural Engineering, with two degrees.”

Monzer Hourani is the founder, chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of Medistar, a Real Estate Investment Trust specializing in the building and development of hospitals and integrated medical office buildings. I initially interviewed Monzer during a two-day visit with him at his headquarters and at his home, in a suburb of Houston, Texas. We have also exchanged follow-up telephone calls since the in-person interviews.

In Houston, Monzer developed large commercial real estate projects in the late 1970s. He had successfully negotiated with both Lebanese and European investors to back him in major real estate projects in Houston. He described being caught in the major real estate recession in Houston in the 1980s. According to Monzer, “The recession was more like a depression, and many developers went broke.”

The banks that had provided Monzer’s construction loans failed and he could not get the loans that he needed to complete the buildings that he already had under construction. Monzer had personally signed for these loans. The foreign investors told Monzer, “Don’t worry about it.” And then not only did they not help, but they demanded their money back.

These events caused Monzer a major business and financial problem. “During all this time, my partners in the middle of all this, my foreign partners, asked for all their money back.” He worked hard to turn around the various projects and was successful, in spite of adversity and obstacles. Then he added, “I paid them [the investors] back.”

The Resolution Trust Corporation was established by the U.S. Congress to resolve problems with Savings and Loans, as well as Banks. According to Monzer, the RTC not only refused the remaining loan funds, but also wanted Monzer to immediately pay off his loans on the uncompleted projects.

Monzer had “offered my personal real estate and investment lands as additional collateral to the RTC” and asked them to continue to fund his loans. “My land was taken by the RTC, then sold at bargain prices to their friends in less than arms-length transactions,” leaving Monzer with a deficit still owed to the RTC. He had to battle “the Resolution Trust Corporation, which was full of ignorance, stupidity, and graft, in my opinion.”
His land was taken and sold to others and Monzer was left with debt. He was then sued for over a quarter of a billion dollars.

Monzer’s lawyers advised him to file bankruptcy, but he paid off his debt without doing so. Monzer said, “In spite of literally living in hell as a developer, I kept my word.”

In the 1990s, Monzer rebuilt his real estate development business. His firm has “built tens of millions of square feet of hospitals, high technology-integrated medical office buildings, and large office buildings.”

Many of the major medical office building projects in development at that time were for HealthSouth. Accounting irregularities were discovered at HealthSouth which lead to the arrest, but not conviction, of its chairman, Richard Scrushy and the near destruction of HealthSouth, as a firm.

Monzer again faced a major financial crisis. Refinancing by a new financial partner has allowed Monzer and Medistar to continue to grow. Monzer summed up his journey as a leader: “We survived the Houston disaster in real estate. We are a successful Houston developer, which is an endangered species.” Monzer Hourani and his entire team at Medistar are working daily to serve the medical office building development and state-of-the-art hospital construction needs of the medical community throughout the entire United States.

Copyright 2006 © Howard Edward Haller, Ph.D.

House Estate Tax Compromise is Uncertain in the Senate

The measure approved last week by the US House of Representatives that would eliminate the estate tax for all but the wealthiest families faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

The Permanent Estate Tax Relief Act of 2006 was drafted by Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Bill Thomas (R- Calif). It was passed through the house by a bipartisan vote of 269-156 on Thursday of last week.

Thomas says that the bill would give Americans “permanency and certainty for their estate tax planning.” However, he admitted that the Senate vote may be tough.

“I, along with the majority of House members, have voted time after time in a bipartisan manner to fully repeal the estate tax,” said Thomas. “So far, those efforts have died in the Senate.”

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn) asked Thomas to draft the compromise bill earlier this month. The goal is to grab the 60 Senate votes needed to avoid a Democratic filibuster.

The legislation is reported to eliminate the estate tax for 99.7% of all Americans. It increases the exemption amount to $5 million per person, and will charge a capital gains tax rate for all estates worth between $5 million and $25 million. Estates over $25 million would be charged a tax rate double the capital gains rate. The current capital gains tax rate is 15%.

The bill is designed to unify the estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer tax. The Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that the bill will cost $283 billion in ten years.

Currently, the estate tax is gradually declining until it is fully eliminated in 2010. In 2011, the tax will return in full force, with an exemption of $1 million per person and a tax rate that tops at 55%.

There is no word as to when the proposals will be before the Senate, though Frist would like to schedule a vote before the summer recess.

In Search Of An Ethical Leader

Ethical leadership is often described as leadership that influences others by using trust, honesty, empathy, and fairness. Ethical leaders foster an ethical culture within organizations by behaving in ways that reflect ethical values. Leaders who facilitate ethical behavior positively influence the attainment of organizational goals. Studies have shown ethical behavior and high moral standards to be amongst the top leadership qualities. Although ethics and morality concern doing what is right, the two concepts are not always synonymous. While morality deals with conforming to ideals of right human conduct, ethics includes consideration for agreements made relative to how a person will act. For example, a doctor takes an oath to do no harm but she sometimes has to knowingly forgo providing the highest level of care for a patient who cannot afford to pay the projected healthcare bill. Although her actions likely abide by the agreement she made with her organization and might be ethical, many people might view her actions as immoral. Ethical, as well as moral, leaders should govern based on fairness rather than financial/personal gains. Several current leaders have constituencies that are searching for ethical replacements.

A civilian Army Engineer, responsible for conducting technical evaluations of training devices offered by different companies to be used to train soldiers, reported several unethical actions taken by his leaders during his ongoing 25 year career. The Engineer has seen leaders turn a blind eye to reported incidences such as racial discrimination, professional disrespect, time card fraud, and nepotism. In one instance, the Engineer served as a technical evaluator during a competition between several companies trying to win a government contract to provide a training tool for soldiers. While attempting to conduct his duties, the Engineer’s authority was seized in a coup-like fashion and his leaders edited documents to ensure a particular company won the contract. In another instance, the Engineer’s leader (an Army Officer) ordered him to take unlawful actions and retaliated against him when he refused and reported the unethical behavior. Other Officers assisted the initial retaliator by issuing the Engineer unfair performance evaluations and removing him from leadership positions. Although the Engineer repeatedly reported the continued retaliations, no leader has extended assistance. The Engineer’s pleas for help up his chain of command within the organization and to outside organizations including the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have not led to meaningful changes in the Engineer’s organization. An ethical leader would have fairly investigated the Engineer’s complaints in an effort to locate and address any unethical, immoral, or toxic leaders within the organization. Ethical leaders listen to their followers and offer beneficial interventions when necessary. As of the date this article was published, the Engineer was still in search of an ethical leader.

The voters select their leaders and expect their leaders, in turn, to take actions that benefit their followers (i.e., their constituency). The voters deserve a leader who respects the law and does not endanger the lives of others for personal gain. One presidential candidate who is working to gain the trust of the voters has violated federal law by mishandling classified information. She exchanged United States secrets, using a non-secure personal computer network, and those secrets were reportedly intercepted by foreign intelligence services. After being asked for certain email messages, the presidential candidate deleted everything from her computer’s hard drive and stated she did not save copies of the email messages. Investigators estimated over 2,000 of the email messages on the candidate’s personal server contained classified information.

The same presidential candidate was also accused of accepting money from special interest groups with the intention of influencing future laws to benefit those groups. The candidate reportedly accepted $20,000 from Saudi Arabian leaders. Some United States citizens question whether or not she will support the widely discussed release of a report that purports to substantiate the involvement of the Saudi Arabian government in the world trade center attacks of September 11, 2001.

The presidential candidate, while serving in the United States Senate, strongly supported trade policies that resulted in an uncountable number of jobs being moved to other countries and fostered an increase in the number of men, women, and children standing on corners holding signs seeking money and/or food. How can she be trusted to lead the voters in an ethical fashion? How can she be trusted to foster an ethical culture during her presidency? How can she be trusted? Many of the voters feel she cannot be trusted and are searching for an alternative-an ethical leader.

The citizens of the United States elected a President, several years ago, who told them he would bring positive change to the country. He promised to improve the economy and order his military troops to come home and cease fighting in foreign countries. Instead, the President doubled the country’s debt and greatly increased the fighting in foreign countries. The vast majority of the people killed in those foreign countries were not the intended targets. The President approved the use of un-manned drones to kill individuals in those countries and those killings were carried out against innocent people 90% of the time. During one timeframe, attempts to kill 41 men resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 people. Although the President acknowledged that drones often kill innocent people, he continues to order the use of drones to target people in foreign countries. The President’s actions have been viewed as dishonest by many of his constituents.

The citizens of the United States are also disappointed that their President supported laws that allow little boys to join little girls in the little girls’ restroom. During a time when crimes like rape and sodomy are on the rise, legalizing men to use women’s restrooms is unethical and decreases the level of trust citizens hold for their leader. The United States President’s actions show his lack of empathy for women-especially abused women. While many of the citizens of the United States, mostly those from certain communities, enjoy the thought of men in women’s restrooms, others find it repulsive and have questioned the values and morality of their President. The majority of the citizens are eager to replace the President in their search for an ethical leader.

When leaders foster a fair and trustworthy environment followers are likely to reciprocate with ethical and moral behaviors. Because leaders set the tone for what is viewed as acceptable, followers who perceive their leaders as unethical tend to turn a blind eye to the immoral and unethical conduct of their teammates. Other followers distance themselves from the unethical activity and hope for a change in leadership. Many followers find themselves on that seemingly never-ending search for an ethical leader.