Being the Multifamily Executive Executive of the Year means more than leading a company with a good financial record. It means having compassion for those you serve, and respect from your peers and for your employees.

This year's Executive of the Year, H. Eric Bolton, chairman, president and CEO of Mid-America Apartment Communities L.L.C., has continuously made wise business decisions that have ensured his company's sound reputation as the provider of an excellent product. He embraces change as a positive way of doing business and has an open door policy that is inviting to his staff, says Joe Pettigrew, Ph.D., president of Leaderpoint Inc., a business consultancy.

H. Eric Bolton, chairman, president and CEO of Mid-America Apartment Communities "Our first, and probably our most important, guiding principal is to treat people with respect," says Bolton. His goal is to meet the expectations of Mid-America's three constituents – residents, employees and shareholders – and he does that by leading his team with compassion and faith, which makes Mid-America's communities a place where people want to live and work.

And, Bolton tries to show respect and consideration for his employees every day. For instance, when Jackie Melnick, an area manager for the Eastern region, had to miss the company's leadership conference because of a family emergency, Bolton still found a way to include her. "He called me from the stage on a speaker phone and told me I won an award," she says. "Three hundred associates were cheering for me. I was thrilled to be included. He knew it was something he could do to make me feel good. He recognized my contribution even though he had to go out of his way to do it."

For Melnick, having a boss that consistently goes out of his way to help his employees simply motivates her to do the same for the company and its residents.

And while displays of faith are unheard of in public companies, it has added to Mid-America's ability to serve its constituents. Mid-America is known for its weekly moments of meditation and it's not uncommon for a prayer to be offered before a meeting, says Bolton. He recognizes that religion in the work place is not for everyone, but his attitude has been, "It's who we are and we are not going to change it or apologize for it."

The moments of meditation were started as a way the company could come together after the tragedy of Sept. 11th, says Nancy Roberts, senior vice president of organizational development at Mid-America. "We had people flying in our Atlanta market that day. There was a true desire to be home with family. And that is where it stems from, the need of people to feel connected, and there was a recognition of God as part of it." The weekly program also has given employees a forum to discuss topics such as being patient, finding solace in silence and understanding Islam.