This article was last updated March 16, 2022.
Leadership is a topic that’s been researched, studied and written about across a multitude of industries. There are numerous styles of leadership — democratic, servant, transformational, transactional, autocratic, laissez-fair, strategic, bureaucratic and coaching-style leadership.
The way people lead is largely influenced by their personality type, which folds into one or more of these styles. Leadership can be more complicated for some than others. People are who they are and rarely change, unless some huge, life-altering event happens that makes them more aware, empathetic and understanding.
They say natural leaders are born, but good leaders can be taught. Everyone wants to have leaders in their life to learn from, grow with and be inspired by. Everyone wants to be challenged to become the best version of themselves. Great leaders encourage you to go further than you think you can. They make you understand that obstacles and failures are an integral part of the journey to success.
Real estate is a crazy, convoluted business in which to be a leader. When you have a business model that’s built largely on contingency, nothing is ever guaranteed except the daily thrill of uncertainty.
There are highs, lows and lots of grey areas at every turn. Whether you run a large brokerage or a small one, manage an office or lead a team of two or 200 — what are some steps you can take to become a successful leader?
1. Adopt servant leadership mentality
This one is an absolute must. Servant leadership is about putting employees first and being aware of not just yourself, but of others. It means listening, being empathetic and bringing people together through persuasion and cooperation. It also means having foresight and being able to conceptualize.
Great servant leaders have an agent and employee-centric mentality. They don’t suffer from disconnect disease, and their every decision is driven by an understanding of how it might impact agents and staff members in the organization. They don’t surround themselves with a bunch of “yes” people.
Instead, they challenge themselves by considering multiple points of view, even those they don’t necessarily agree with. Servant leaders work for their agents after all, and they should always remind employees of that.
2. Motivate and inspire
Great leaders in real estate know how to motivate others around them. They don’t just feed the troops simplistic, surface-level, rah-rah advice. They translate in-the-trenches experience to real-world ideas and potential solutions that encourage agents to be their best.
They show practical examples of what can happen when you dream big, encouraging employees to lean into the process rather than focus on the outcome. Outcomes are the result of implementing a process.
3. Foster growth
Exemplary leaders create an environment for growth that is rewarding and motivating, not stifling and self-defeating. They allow their staff members to cross-train and carve out a well-rounded career path.
They don’t limit or put their employees in a box, no matter how convenient that may be for the company. Good leaders want more for their employees. They know that providing opportunities for growth and development can really help employees get to where they need to be.
In real estate, exemplary leaders guide agents to opportunities that play to their strengths, while suggesting ways to turn their weaknesses into strengths. This could involve partnering or cross-training with other agents, which provides a great opportunity for mentorship and learning.
No agent is good at every single aspect of the job, and these exercises can facilitate self-discovery. They can help agents zero in on their goals and build the skills and confidence to achieve them.
4. Be accessible, and follow up
Great leaders are accessible and reachable. They understand that being a leader is as much of a contact sport as being a real estate agent. They don’t hide behind four walls or multiple gatekeepers. Their doors are always open and phones ready to receive calls.
In other words, they create an atmosphere in which agents and employees are comfortable reaching out with questions or concerns without fear of retribution.
Even if leaders are not able to immediately answer a question or resolve an issue, they follow through on their promise to look into it and respond back to the agent or employee to keep them apprised of their progress.
5. Encourage idea-sharing and exchange of information
Real estate is a complicated and highly stressful business. No two transactions are the same, and the mix of people and circumstances involved often brings about a unique set of challenges specific to that transaction.
Rather leaving employees to their own devices, great leaders foster a culture of sharing information, ideas, best practices and solutions to any challenges agents might face.
Moreover, they recognize that open communication creates an environment where everyone truly cares about helping one another. This works to strengthen teams in the workplace. Suddenly, agents don’t look at each other as competitors, but colleagues who work to lift each other up and support each other through success and hardships.
6. Cultivate ethics and integrity
Ethics is defined as doing the right thing when no one is looking. Real estate leaders create a culture based on good ethical standards.
They don’t tolerate an environment where employees and agents don’t play nice in the sandbox with each other and those outside the company.
Even in a business that’s often viewed as cutthroat, leaders do not foster a backstabbing, everyone’s-customers-are-up-for-grabs kind of environment. They don’t run interference with an agent’s lead and route it to someone else. Instead, they have their agents’ backs and expect them to do the right thing in return.
Leaders also choose the players in their organization carefully. Rather than just recruiting somebody, anybody or everybody, they consider who would best contribute to the reputation and success of their team based on a variety of qualities, attributes and talents.
Having the highest production or biggest team is not necessarily the tipping factor. At the same time, they aren’t afraid to cut loose employees who don’t conduct themselves in this manner or exude unprofessionalism and incompetence.
7. Practice transparency
Effective leaders recognize the importance of being transparent through the good and the bad. It is important for everyone to know what’s happening within the organization and what’s guiding the decision-making process.
Good leaders track progress and share regular status updates so everyone can stay connected and on track. Nobody should be blindsided.
8. Be a coach and a teacher
Some of the best real estate leaders are also incredible teachers and coaches. They know how to create a vision and make it happen not only for their organization, but also for you.
This means sitting down one-on-one with agents, finding out what their “big picture” is and helping them break down their goals into actionable steps. By engaging agents in the process, great leaders can directly impact the outcome they desire for the entire company.
9. Remain calm through the storm
Dynamic leaders have the ability to remain remarkably calm through the storms of business and life. As we’ve all seen, there are economic storms (2008 real estate market crash), stock market storms (recent market drops due to coronavirus fears) and natural disasters in the form of floods, fires, hurricanes and mudslides.
A real estate leader must be calm in the face of the unknown with a resilient approach to weathering any adversity. Despite the initial turmoil, things will eventually settle down. The debris will be cleared, and the sun will shine again.
Experiencing a new normal may mean not being able to go back to the reality that everyone is used to, but a great leader knows how to shepherd troops through the uncertainty and changes that lie ahead.
10. Embrace change
The only thing that is constant in life and business is change. Markets and economies are in constant flux, and what was once, will not likely be in the future. True real estate leaders anticipate and prepare for change as best they can.
They educate and coach their organizations on how to adapt and thrive in different circumstances. By being nimble and agile in the face of change, their teams will be better poised to respond to whatever might happen, while staying ahead of the competition.