Those who desire to lead don’t always have to be the oldest or most experienced people, so long as they’re the right people. Leadership is earned through passion, vision and influence; the finer skills can be developed. That’s why EXIT Realty Corp. International’s Founder and Chairman, Steve Morris, says, “Good leaders are born, great leaders are trained,” because it’s okay to not have all the answers at the front-end, as long as you’re open to learning. If you’re new to a leadership position or simply want to increase your influence over others, here’s how you can hit the ground running in becoming an exceptional leader, with advice from Bob McKinnon, EXIT Realty’s Director of Leadership.

Becoming a student of leadership

The best leaders are the best learners according to Barry Posner and James Kouzes, the authors of The Truth About Leadership. You can learn the building blocks of leadership—the qualities, values, and strategies of those who are successful—by reading books, watching videos, attending meetings or seminars, and listening to interviews or podcasts from leaders you admire. However, this will only take you so far. McKinnon likens it to when he learned to fly a plane; you can study the instruction manual, but you’ll eventually need an instructor. Don’t overthink it—approach someone you want to emulate and ask, “What you’ve taught me has made a difference in my life and I would like to continue learning from you. Would you be willing to mentor me?” You would be astounded by how often the answer is yes. “Good leaders are not selfish people,” says McKinnon, “Leadership is an affair of the heart and most leaders are givers.”

Developing an effective leadership style

Inexperienced leaders tend to come on too strong with an authoritarian approach when a collaborative style would work better. The virtue of a collaborative style is that you aren’t expected to have all the answers. Instead, moderate but don’t lead the discussion, request feedback, and ask effective, open-ended questions to involve the team in the solution, such as:

  • In which areas can we improve?
  • What result would make us happy?
  • What two things can we do today to move us towards our goal?

Your personality should come through in your leadership style, so be honest about who you are and play to your strengths. “The worst thing you can do as a new leader is to swerve out of your lane,” says McKinnon. Recognize the shortcomings of your personality and surround yourself with people who complement you. If you’re naturally cautious and slow to make decisions, bring someone on board who can decisively make the call so you can prioritize what you bring to the table.

Preserving company culture

A huge part of leadership involves hiring passionate people in appropriate positions, nurturing a strong, team-oriented culture, and then protecting it from conflict. Hypothetically, if a team member is challenging your authority, you must first take ownership of the situation. You’ve either done something to warrant or condone this behavior or you’ve hired someone who’s not a team player. Root out the exact issue with a collaborative approach by sitting down with this person to request honest feedback. You may discover there are valid concerns being raised and areas upon which you can improve. If, however, this person simply doesn’t want to follow your vision or undermines your efforts, then get that person off your team. “That’s one of the weaknesses in real estate leadership today—they won’t remove a toxic, destructive REALTOR® from their company,” says McKinnon. “Even if he or she is a top-producer, the leader of the office needs to protect the culture, put their foot down, and say, ‘I can’t have that.’”

Getting comfortable with delegation

Many new leaders struggle with giving team members the freedom to try, fail, and adjust, which is critical to their professional and personal growth. McKinnon likens it to an orchestra in which you can either play an instrument or conduct, but never both. The difficulty is often related to ego—believing others won’t match the quality of your work. If left unchecked, your ego will undermine your ability to lead. To be effective, you must emotionally invest in your new role as the conductor, divest yourself of ego, and accept that giving your team the freedom to make decisions and act on those decisions is a strength, not a weakness.

As a new leader, it’s important that you’re open to feedback and continually seeking new information. Be attentive and adaptable, but don’t contort yourself into someone you’re not. You should always play to the strengths of your character and personality as you develop in your role as a leader. McKinnon concludes, “Leadership has infinite possibilities, independent of age, gender, position, or style. It’s amazing to see all the different types of people who, when leadership is needed, step up and say, ‘I’ll do it’.”

Be sure to subscribe to Real Leadership, a podcast hosted by Bob McKinnon, available on iTunes and other popular platforms.


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