On Leadership

Leadership business concept on blackboard

You’ve made it!

You’re one of the select few real estate agents who put in the hours, worked the phones and used the right tools (yes, Espresso Agent for the really successful!!) to outperform your peers. You had the gift, that special (some might say fearless) quality that drove you to success. Your book of business continued to grow until you reached that point where it became necessary to build a team around you. And, possibly, at some point, you evolved your growing team into a successful brokerage.

Suddenly, you find yourself sitting atop a large organization, with employees looking to you every day for guidance, for a clue as to how to make it the way you’ve made it. Herein lies the business world’s greatest challenge: how to make the move from a successful, independent entrepreneur to a respected, admired leader. But here’s the catch: just being the boss doesn’t make you a leader.

Contrary to belief, leaders are more made than born. Research suggests that two-thirds of what makes a greater is learned over time, through a combination of formal education and real-world experience. The other third is comprised of innate personality qualities, the unique set of genetic characteristics with which you make your entrance into the world. For example, you might be naturally extroverted, a quality common to most leaders. However, that doesn’t mean that someone introverted can’t be an effective leader.

Many top agents succeed because they are effective at managing their world: time, process, leads, to-do lists, etc. The problem is, effective managers of process do not necessarily become effective and inspiring leaders.  Two quotes we love in this regard:

“You manage things, but you lead people.”  Rear Admiral Grace Hooper

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker

Let’s take a 30,000-foot view of the essential qualities needed to be an effective leader (in no order of importance):

  • People skills: as noted above, you may be born an extrovert. But there are still qualities you can learn over time to make you better at dealing with people. For example, you can learn how to be an “active listener” meaning, you engage with another person, repeating what you’ve heard so it sticks with you and makes them feel as if they’re being heard. You can also learn how to be better at maintaining eye contact with another person.
  • Problem-solving skills: effective leaders have the ability to listen to someone, discern what is being said and process potential solutions without much self-judgment. This is not an innate skill, but something learned over time, especially if you stay in one industry for much of your career. Problem-solving also requires the willingness to take risks.
  • Technical skills: this goes well beyond understanding the technical aspects of a particular industry. Today’s leaders can no longer ignore the impact of digital technology on every aspect of the business; such ignorance leaves organizations vulnerable to newer, savvier competitors.
  • Empathy: this is a quality that can also be learned over time and is essential. Empathetic leaders not only can detect what another person is feeling but can experience the same feelings themselves. Many people confuse empathy with softness, the ability to be easily swayed. It’s just the opposite; empathetic leaders inspire a culture of trust with employees.
  • Confidence and humility: these are somewhat paradoxical qualities, but can play a critical role in building a strong business culture. Employees want leaders who are confident and unwavering in their decisions. But there’s a flip side: employees also want to work for leaders who can admit when they were wrong and take responsibility for their actions. Nothing is more corrosive to an organization than a leader who points the finger at someone else when things go wrong.

Let’s close with one more quote, this one from Teddy Roosevelt, considered one of the most inspiring leaders in the history of the United States:

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.”

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