“They don’t engage with agents or brokers or anybody of any importance. They become the invisible ghost. They jet in and jet out.”

This winter, Inman is obsessing over leadership in real estate. We’re publishing profiles, Q&As, strategy guides, and an in-depth five-part report on what the industry wants from its leaders. Then, on March 26-28, we’re going to gather those leaders in the California desert to digest all of these inputs and figure out where to go from here.

This is a collaborative process. Please fill out our surveys, engage with our posts, and send us feedback to leadership@inman.com. And if you are a leader who wants to join us in the desert in March, or if you want to recommend a colleague, send a note to brad@inman.com and tell us why.

Real estate professionals would like to see more transparency, honesty, vision, credibility, accessibility, energy and inspiration from their leadership, according to an informal poll on the industry Facebook group Inman Coast to Coast.

Old-school, top-down hierarchy; “ivory tower” management; and micromanagement in the office are no longer welcome, said the community of Inman readers.

Katie Clancy, Realtor and owner of William Raveis’ The Cape House team in Massachusetts, suggested a model in which advisory boards with all the stakeholders set the leadership direction.

Moreover, leaders who can look ahead and see what’s coming down the road will be extremely valuable. “I want leaders who are forward-thinking and willing to embrace change,” said Laurie Weston Davis, co-owner of Better Homes and Gardens Lifestyle Property Partners. “Leaders who are focused on the long term. It’s not about today — it’s about five to 10 to 20 years from now.”

Training expert Alyssa Hellman, meanwhile, wanted to see a desire by current management to “create more leaders.”

Social media guru Katie Lance added, “I want more leaders who understand that it’s less about them and more about other people — and elevating the people around them. People who check their ego at the door are the leaders I want to be around.”

In a similar vein, Jeff Lobb would like to see the end of what he calls “hit and runs” — when an executive parachutes in to deliver a message, looks at their watch and hightails it out of there before anyone gets the opportunity to have a proper conversation with them. Speaking to Inman later, Lobb elaborated on this point and said disconnected leaders are not doing the industry any favors: “They don’t engage with agents or brokers or anybody of any importance,” he said. “They become the invisible ghost. They jet in and jet out, their busy schedules don’t give them time to connect as a human, to get to know what some of their people are thinking.”

As a result, those who operate at the corporate level start to forget what happens on the ground, and they are therefore uninformed when making key decisions, said Lobb, who noted: “As a leader, I have to know what the clients’ challenges are. I can’t do that by being invisible.”

Tracy Freeman, a broker from Coldwell Banker Real Estate in New Jersey, has been heartened by her management’s interest in listening to their agents.

“I personally have been involved in think tank sessions where our ‘C-suite’ invited me and other active agents to give our perspective on what the day-to-day needs of an agent are and how the brand can support those need,” Freeman commented on Coast to Coast. Her leaders are therefore able to help address agents’ pain points, Freeman told Inman later.

Freeman’s regional executive vice president with NRT’s Eastern region, Kate Rossi, has organized a listing workshop for agents who are finding the low inventory market challenging. “It’s fantastic. It’s a pain point, the lack of inventory  — it’s great to have a leader who can think about this and help at a high level,” said Freeman.

Lobb also thinks that top managers should be far more active on social media to give their people some idea of their personality and share insights on how they like to spend their time.

Many top leaders are not active on social media, Lobb said. “They don’t want to be known in a world of trust and connecting with people and choose not to share. They have to show they are human,” he added. Lobb said Better Homes and Gardens president Sherry Chris exemplifies how to be accessible. “She shows up at events, at parties. She’ll post on social on the weekend and she’s engaging, she gets it,” Lobb told Inman. (Read Sherry Chris’s approach to leadership here.)

Michael Fischer, Coldwell Banker’s COO is another leader who is known to post about his hobbies online, making sure he connects with agents at events, Lobb said. Meanwhile, Lobb would like to see better pathways for real estate professionals to move up the ladder in their firms in a transparent way.

When managers are brought in from other industries at the top level, that can be deflating for those toiling away in the company, he said. “I think what frustrates people is the good old boys club,” he said.

Email Gill South

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