A commentary by Bob McKinnon, Director of Leadership, EXIT Realty Corp. International.

World-renowned author and speaker, John C. Maxwell, says that, “Leadership is influence–nothing more, nothing less.” The real essence of and starting point towards leadership is when someone realizes he or she can make a difference. Leaders see things other people don’t see. So, a leader in real estate is someone who believes he can really make a difference; create a better brokerage, a better team, a better approach. When you spend time with a leader who values and validates other people, you’re going to grow as a result of the experience.

The real estate industry today is experiencing an era of big thinkers–thought leaders–who are changing the way we’ve practiced real estate for a long time. The most exciting real estate companies I have ever seen have always had at their center a solid, charismatic leader. And the opposite is true. When a company is experiencing disharmony and stagnation, good leadership is probably lacking. In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins defines a Level 5 leader as one who “builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility and professional will.” The Level 5 leader is one who has evolved all the way to the top of the leadership pyramid, not by hogging the limelight or being a control freak, rather by being collaborative and humble.

Good leaders do not set people up to fail, they set people up to succeed. Yet industry-wide, we’re seeing a tremendous amount of turnover. Leadership is not management. You cannot lead your P&L; you can only lead people. Therefore, when a company commits its leadership minds towards building and developing people, it begins a change for the better, and hopefully that shift then spreads through the ranks and to the buying and selling public.

Good, solid leadership enriches lives and accelerates growth. Maxwell teaches that we all have a leadership lid. If we are at, say, a “seven” on the leadership scale, typically we can only lead other people who are sevens and below. This is often the reason a real estate brokerage struggles to attract or keep top talent. However, we can raise our lid. We can improve our leadership skills by learning about leadership, spending time with and emulating good leaders, and creating solid people-centered processes.

One way to learn from outstanding leaders is by listening to podcasts. The people I interview on the Real Leadership podcast are thought leaders. They have built big, powerful real estate organizations and they are also very committed to their community and to the industry at large. They are exciting people who are examples of strong organizational leadership. The Real Leadership podcast is available on iTunes and other popular platforms and by visiting www.realleadershippodcast.com.

Leadership is an affair of the heart, so concludes Kouzes and Posner in their book, The Truth About Leadership. One can talk about integrity, vision, the ability to communicate, and all the other qualities of a good leader, but in the end, it’s a matter not of the head, but of the heart. “Leaders put their hearts in their businesses and their businesses in their hearts,” so says Kouzes and Posner. “They love what they’re doing and they stay in love with leading, with the people who do the work, with what their organizations produce, and with those who honor them by using their products and services.” Real estate has always been, and will continue to be, a people business.


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