Thoughts on Leadership: Follow the Leaders

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels first found me in Washington, D.C. to meet with the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty team and Kevin Wiles, their talented president. I spent the day speaking to these fine agents and managers then traveled to New York City for RISMedia’s CEO Exchange. This annual event is a can’t-miss opportunity to gather with real estate’s preeminent minds as they discuss all things from mortgage regulations and data control to sustainable success and broker best practices. Each year I depart the Big Apple with incredible insights and a renewed sense of purpose in the direction our industry is headed … and this meeting proved no exception.

But before we get into the details, let’s take a step back and talk a little bit about leadership in general. Leaders, at their very core, must possess two basic abilities: the first is to lead, the second, to follow. Of course leaders must be able to forge a new path for their team, one that is well-strategized and has a clear, wildly important goal at its end. However, just as importantly, leaders must also understand when it’s best to follow … and by that I mean listen and learn from the paths taken by others. This gets to the heartbeat of coaching and mentoring—two initiatives I openly support—and also explains why any of us would attend events like the CEO Exchange, so we might gain perspectives on business that in many cases differ from our own.

Now, let’s return to the conference. I’d like to highlight for you some notable leaders whose industry acumen shined this week in Manhattan:

  • The event kicked off with a session moderated by RISMedia President and CEO John Featherston, who eloquently spoke to a panel of power brokers about blueprints for success. Panelist Mark Stark, CEO and owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Nevada Properties, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Arizona Properties and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties, shared his unique business model that focuses on the agent  as his primary customer, with his purpose as broker/owner to help him or her create a robust business within his brokerage. Of course he also stressed the importance of teams—Mark has been a proponent of teams going clear back to 2000—and explained that he treats every agent as a team, even if he or she operates alone.
  • Next, Jon Coile, president and CEO of Champion Realty, Inc., provided memorable insights as a panelist for a session titled, “The Fate of Data Control.” He spoke about his solutions to untangle the complex web of real estate data as it relates to brokers, agents and consumers.
  • After this session, Candace Adams, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Westchester Properties, participated in “Turning Data into Dollars: Broker Strategies for Leveraging Online Leads.” Candace knowledgeably articulated her thoughts on strategies for generating, cultivating and closing online leads.
  • Today, Paul Charron, Chairman of the Board of Campbell Soup Company, former chairman and CEO of Liz Claiborne Inc., delivered powerful words on leadership, in essence explaining that leaders must focus on effectiveness over efficiency and manage their time to fit this approach. He cautioned against getting caught up in the whirlwind of the day-to-day and instead urged leaders to focus on strategy and big-picture initiatives that would drive profitability and growth. His anti-bureaucratic philosophy about leadership was refreshing and the humility with which he conveyed his perspective made the entire talk a pleasure to experience and digest.
  • Finally, the CEO Exchange culminated with a super session on sustainable success, moderated by Dermot Buffini, CEO of Buffini & Company. Dermot did a great job not only directing the discussion but also pointing out the importance of coaching and training for increased productivity and growth. Panelists included Gretchen Pearson, president and broker/owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties and Joan Docktor, president of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®, who both explained ways to increase agent productivity, build motivation and operate a brokerage efficiency in order to find lasting success.

So what’s the message? Simply put, no matter who you are or how experienced you are, you can always learn from the lessons of others.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on Facebook and Twitter.

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