By Penn Jaydan

What is it about some leaders that make others want to work harder under their direction? What makes a good leader in general, and a good real estate leader in particular?

In a nutshell, a boss tells employees what to do to keep the organization afloat. A leader inspires colleagues and subordinates to drive the business of their own volition.

At its simplest level, leaders offer something others can’t. Something both intangible and practical. They offer an ethic that is instilled in others, and the employees may not even be aware that it happened!

Before all else, leaders do the following things.

1. Offer something others can’t.

Leaders show, they don’t tell. They lead by example. They don’t instruct others to create quality – the quality they create shows others how things are supposed to be done and engages others to want to do it.

2. Create quality.

Leaders create quality and they ensure that the appropriate personnel and systems are in place to maintain it. For instance, suppose the leader, a top producer in a brokerage, successfully completes a transaction. Suppose further that she is a Certified Real Estate Specialist. The CRES member is an individual who has balanced knowledge in all areas of real estate. It is earned by only the top performers, who have demonstrated exceptional skills, training, experience and commitment that has gone above and beyond provincial licensing requirements.

In an industry with a high turnover rate, a CRES member is a proven specialist with a passion for the business and a desire to obtain the best deal for every one of their clients.

Now this leader can hold sessions that show how she conducted herself differently in various ways. This can be anything from analyzing a contract to explaining how a negotiation was conducted, to how phone calls were fielded (an activity many other leading companies, like banks and insurance companies, do).

3. Establish trust.

The only way to establish trust is to be worthy of it. True leaders have credibility. They’ve taken the time to earn it, without cutting corners. When their reputation is put to the test, they can back it up with evidence, not words.

Part of that evidence is the quality of their service. For example, many salespeople will offer something verbally, only to change it when push comes to shove and circumstances change. A leader would not take this approach, even if it means short-term losses. If it takes time to build trust, it also takes time to build real (long-term) gains.

4. Inspire others.

Machiavelli said that it is better to be feared than loved. Because in the former case, you are in control, whereas in the latter case, others are. But in a customer service-oriented context like real estate, this medieval wisdom should perhaps be taken less than seriously.

Leaders instil a love for performance, not a fear in the lack of it. They make their employees or colleagues want to come to work in the morning for intrinsic reasons, not because of some external negative consequence. Productivity is maximized and workers are most happy when their performance is based on the right reasons.

5. Be creative.

Leaders know how to fashion creativity, even towards the most business- oriented situations and technical requirements. Creativity is not the sole preserve of artists. It is the flexibility and adaptive thinking that solves practical, day-to-day challenges. This could be a new approach to sales, or a new way of communicating with customers. The point is to do it like the others aren’t, to solve problems that others can’t.

A common worry among brokers is that without the immediate bottom line, everything else is moot. Concepts, strategies or principled approaches are merely secondary points of attack, if they figure into a business plan at all.

But Harvard’s Daniel Pink advises us to motivate employees who work beyond basic tasks and give them three factors to increase performance and satisfaction. These are:

  • Autonomy – our desire to be self directed. It increases engagement over compliance;
  • Mastery – the urge to get better skills; and
  • Purpose – the desire to do something that has meaning and is important. Businesses that only focus on profits without valuing purpose will end up with poor customer service and unhappy employees.

Pink’s research should be taken seriously, even if it means a more measured pace to success for a real estate brokerage.

Employees may be unaware of the importance of these findings. But that’s just it. As a leader, you must give them what they never knew they wanted.



  1. Does anyone remember this old article and its comment stream, from December 2010? It was a month and year that changed my life forever, and I accidentally tripped over Terry’s article today and thought it worth sharing. Some of the same folks are still commenters.

    Has the business changed much in the past seven years where you all work?

    Carolyne L 🍁

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