8 examples of authentic leadership in real estate

What the best in the industry are doing to lead

“Authentic leadership” is described in Wikipedia as “an approach to leadership that emphasizes building the leader’s legitimacy through honest relationships with followers.” Authentic leaders are said to value input and are supposed to be positive, truthful, open people who build trust and generate enthusiastic support to improve individual and team performance.

In the past, an employee worked his entire career with one employer; today, the acceptable trend is a different job posting every three to five years. One of the benefits of this trend is the employee gets to experience a variety of leaders and leadership styles throughout his career. I have had the great fortune to experience some of the best leaders and some of the worst leaders throughout my career in real estate. Some of my best lessons have been derived from observing poor leadership; however, there is nothing more gratifying and empowering than working for a truly authentic leader.

With all the changes impacting the real estate industry, there are two key elements that will ensure a real estate brokerage will survive and excel in the years ahead — one of these is culture and the other is leadership. Neither is mutually exclusive; you can’t have a good culture without a good leader, and you can’t be a good leader unless you can create and maintain a good culture.

To be a good, sustainable leader, you must be an authentic leader. First and foremost, the authentic leader must be true to himself or herself, even when things get tough. To achieve and maintain the respect and trust of your team, it is necessary to be consistent, transparent, fair and able to make difficult decisions. An authentic leader must be empathetic, introspective and aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. The authentic leader always hires the best to compensate for his own deficiencies thereby strengthening and developing a well-heeled team.

Authentic leaders must have a vision on where the organization is headed and possess the ability to make it happen. Sherry Chris, CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, is an example of a leader who wanted to define an authentic organization utilizing lifestyle and technology driven by her unbending passion to succeed. Chris’ presence at many of the prominent industry events paralleled with the growth of “BHG” is a testament to her commitment to the industry and her organization.

The authentic leader is responsible for the creation and maintenance of the culture ensuring the building blocks are ever present to promote the work community/environment to deliver that vision. Vivian Risi, president of Royal LePage Your Community in Toronto, is an example of an authentic leader who developed a work community with over 1,000 real estate agents, who now all share and embrace a culture of success, family, fun and charitable works. Risi was not only building a foundation, but she is creating a legacy, another trait of the authentic leader.

Authentic leaders empower their teams by allowing them to succeed, along with the freedom to fail since mistakes often lead to innovation. Pam O’Connor, president and CEO of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, is a leader who is “truly respectful and appreciative of all her staff while providing inspiration on a daily basis. Pam leads by example and empowers everyone to greater heights, always enabling creative thinking to overcoming any challenge,” said Sheila Barr, LeadingRE’s director of business development.

Gurcharan “Garry” Bhaura, president of Century 21 President in Toronto, is another authentic leader who believes in the power of collaboration to create and develop a better organization. In just five years, Bhaura built from scratch a successful brokerage utilizing collaboration to create a culture of success and family. Bhaura maintains excellent retention rates in a highly competitive marketplace due to the culture and esprit de corps resident in his brokerage.

Steven Reibel, senior vice president with Keyes Real Estate in Florida, says, “In a time when many are concerned about delivering annual profits and stock prices, the authentic leader differentiates themselves by focusing on the longer-term goals and sustainable growth. This philosophy and approach has allowed Keyes to grow and flourish in our marketplace while others have struggled.”

Authentic leaders understand the power of the network and the benefits of deploying strategic partnerships. Maura McLaren, executive director and CEO of the Real Estate Institute of Canada (REIC), demonstrated exceptional leadership skills by developing highly recognized strategic alliances with other associations such as the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM), the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Appraisal Institute of Canada (AIC). All four associations have become much stronger through their combined affiliation.

I recently joined Peerage Realty Partners to work with two authentic leaders, Chairman Miles Nadal and CEO Gavin Swartzman, who have earned reputations of giving back to the community. Nadal and Swartzman deploy a unique partnership model as a way to propagate their visions for creating win-win cultures of success, empowerment and authenticity. The visionary and philanthropic Nadal is recognized internationally for developing world-class corporate cultures as found in the New York-based MDC Partners, which deploys the powerful tag lines such as “The Place Where Great Talent Lives” and “Dare to Dream.” Nadal’s tenacity and his unyielding focus on culture enabled him to create a dominant presence in three different business segments — advertising and marketing, wealth management and now real estate.

The common bonds shared by authentic leaders are that they remain true to themselves. They are genuine — courageous. They dare to dream, and they all give back to the community. It is not what you learn in business school but the experiential learning from one’s life journey that is the dominant reason these unique individuals have attained the moniker of being truly authentic leaders. The real estate industry needs more authentic leaders to help us navigate the complexity of issues and pressures that we are now facing.

Don Kottick is the executive vice president of corporate development for Peerage Realty Partners, the parent company for Chestnut Park Real Estate and Baker Real Estate based in Toronto.

Email Don Kottick.