In the real estate space, “leaders” are not confined to the C-suite of a big-box franchise or a publicly traded real estate tech giant. Jay Thompson and 10 Agent Edgers give their insights into what makes a good leader.

Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent over six years working for Zillow Group. He’s also the co-founder of AgentLoop. He “selectively retired” in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column is published every Wednesday.

It’s “Leadership Month” at Inman! There are leadership tips, profiles of industry leaders, Pulse questions and answers from the Inman community and more to come throughout March.

Why talk about leadership? 

Simply put, because it’s important. In the real estate space, “leaders” are not confined to the C-suite of a big-box franchise or a publicly traded real estate tech giant. Brokers are leaders. You have team leaders, whether it’s a team of two or 200. I’d argue that even solo agents are leaders, or should be. You have to coordinate the efforts of many people to reach the ultimate goal of a closed transaction. To do that well, you lead.

What is leadership? 

There are practically endless definitions of “leadership” out there. If you boil it down to the most simple form, leadership is the practice of positive influence. This begs the question, what is influence?    

Combining definitions from the Oxford and Merriam-Webster dictionaries, influence is “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something,” but without using “apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command.”

In other words, getting action from someone by clubbing them over the head or saying “because I said so” isn’t leadership or influence.

Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower may have summed up the relation of leadership and influence best with: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

Don’t confuse leadership with management.

Although they are interconnected, leadership and management serve different purposes. Leaders are responsible for establishing a vision, strategizing direction and motivating their teams to achieve an objective. Managers are charged with ensuring the leader’s vision is carried out through planning, directing and delegation. 

What makes someone a ‘good leader’ in 2022?

Inman posed this question to the Agent Edge Facebook group. Ten members replied with terrific observations. (If you haven’t joined Agent Edge, you should.)

  • “Someone willing to share their experience and knowledge with others.” – Sherry Scales, Realtor, Austin Texas Homes
  • “Appreciation and being willing to roll up your sleeves. Make ordinary moments feel extraordinary and you are winning with people. Life has been too heavy for too long.” – Shannon Rogers Buss, vice president and managing broker, Sotheby’s International Realty | Cape Cod
  • “Experience.” – Tom Bohlmann, broker in charge, Bohlmann Realty Group
  • “Someone who is excited about your success as well as theirs. They’re not your boss, but your partner, they know that this is a learning business and will learn along with you.” – Shantée Haynes, Realtor, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty
  • “A leader should lead by example, be present, and communicate well. I see a few great large real estate team leaders on Facebook providing constant market updates, education, and team wins, and every time I see these updates pop up I think to myself ‘If I was ever to move, this is who I would want to associate myself with.’ They are there for the public and their team.” – Kinga Mills, Realtor/salesperson, Christie’s International Real Estate
  • “A good leader puts their team ahead of themselves. Take care of your team, they’ll take care of you.” – Brandon Smith, Meybohm Real Estate
  • “A Good leader will tell you what to do. A Great Leader Will Lead By Example!!!!!” – Steve McCardle
  • “Excellent listening skills, flexibility, don’t just solve problems — teach others how to approach, discern and solve their own issues. Be generous, don’t lead others for your own gain, but for those you lead to gain on their own. Believe the principle that what you put out will be returned to you, likely 10 fold.” – Carolyn Runkle Triebold, broker associate and senior estates director, Dilbeck Real Estate
  • “Mentoring new Realtors — a commitment but also so enriching and has renewed my enthusiasm.” – Michelle Jarzombek Drum, associate broker, Gustave White Sotheby’s International Realtor
  • “A leader is someone to look up to, that shows appreciation for efforts of those on the team, who communicates if things aren’t going as expected and offers a chance to improve. Their purpose is in growing others and in seeing others succeed. They use their position to lift others up and not hold others down.” – Leslie Guiley, real estate broker and investor, Leslie Guiley PLLC

Can leadership be taught?

Whether or not you can teach someone to lead or some are born with innate leadership skills is a long-ranging debate. Personally, I fall into the “leadership can be taught, but not everyone wants to learn” camp.

There’s no question some leaders are better than others. Whether that’s due to learning or genetics can be debated forever. Whatever side you fall on, most agree that leadership skills can be improved with study and practice.

Ponder these responses to Inman’s question “What makes someone a ‘good leader’ in 2022?” They provide a lot of food for thought. Practice, be cognizant of areas that need improvement, and you can be a better leader.

Real estate is not a simple career, and transactions can be complex and involve many people who will have varied levels of competency. A good leader will improve the chance of success for their brokerage, their agents, their team and themselves. 

Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and co-founder of AgentLoop living in the Texas Coastal Bend. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty. Called “the hardest working retiree ever,” as the founder of Jay.Life he writes, speaks and consults on all things real estate.

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