Thoughts on Leadership: Management & Mentors

By: Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. From Tuesday through Thursday, among other things, I conducted 14 CEO and company Q2 reviews, which I’m in the middle of completing as I write this post to you today.

The last three blog posts have been about my mentors (read the Zig Ziglar post here, the Og Mandino post here and the Jim Rohn post here), as well as the leaders who have inspired me throughout my career and had a profound impact on my life. In this post, I’m going to talk to you about an incredible leader who also had a profound impact on my life and career, and that person is Alain Pinel.

Alain began his professional journey in 1965 as a political writer for the French daily newspaper, “L’Aurore.” Over the next six years, he wrote for many newspapers and magazines and even commented on news radio. (I remember he told me a story about spending a day with Bobby Kennedy for a story Alain was writing about him.)

Seven years later, in 1972, Alain’s career trajectory brought him to the Golden State, where he took a position as a regional manager for La Salle Extension University in Northern California, then became Western Zone manager for U.S. Industries/Beacon. Finally, he joined an industry where he’d remain for decades: real estate.

His industry start was with Fox & Carskadon in Los Altos, California. By 1979, he was managing broker at the new Saratoga office in Silicon Valley. The year 1984 saw Alain named senior vice president in charge of the South Bay region and one year later, he was executive vice president and sales manager of the company. During his five-year tenure, the company tripled its sales volume to $3 billion and became known as one of the top residential real estate firms in the nation.

This is precisely why, when I got my real estate license in 1985, I only wanted to work for one firm and that was Fox & Carskadon.

After I started Intero Real Estate Services, my partner, John Thompson and I sat down with Alain and were able to convince him to join Intero as senior vice president, managing officer and general manager of Prestigio International, Intero’s luxury division.

Alain is incredibly smart and insightful about ways to lead in the real estate industry. He has authored two books, and his leadership perspectives from “Real Estate Management: Strategies & Tactics” are relevant for leaders seeking focus, productivity and growth from their teams.

The one thing I really admire about Alain Pinel (well, there are a lot of things but this one in particular stands out) is that he would never hesitate to go on a listing presentation with his agents.

As Alain would say, “It’s pretty gutsy, though. You want to shine and win, not look like you don’t know what you are doing and possibly screw up a listing opportunity for the agent you mean to help.”

Attending a listing presentation with an agent, according to Alain, provides management and leadership value. You’re now invested in your agent’s business growth, and you really need to know how to sell to make this tactic work for everyone. From an agent’s point of view, it could be the very element of your management style they admire most.

In his book, Alain sets out to answer this simple yet powerful question: What is a leader?  Well, let me tell you what I learned from Alain Pinel: A leader isn’t someone people follow, it’s someone people want to follow. I learned from Alain: “Leadership is not about making friends for the sake of it or acquiescing to unreasonable and unjustified requests to buy respect and loyalty. A true leader can be (and usually is) tough-minded and demanding. And it’s fine, as long as [they] are also just, fair, honest, sincere and consistent.”

Agents, like anyone, crave a challenge, Alain taught me. It’s why we’re so focused on goals. When we have a goal, when we visualize a goal, we’ve created a target we can now achieve. There’s a tangible definition to success rather than an unstructured one, and it helps us duplicate our progress and sustain it long term.

In his book, Alain outlines a list of characteristics leaders should possess, and I want to share it with you now, because these are traits I learned from Alain that we should all focus on every day:

  • Vision. Even when strategies or tactics change, a leader with a clear vision that they’re excited about can always motivate a team to action.
  • Inspiration. When inspiration works, faith follows, Alain says. People buy into your vision, and as Alain writes: “Motivation comes and goes; inspiration lasts.”
  • Trust. When there’s trust among a team, members will embrace your vision as their own. They’ll fight for you and for the success of the company because they trust in the direction you’re heading and where you’re leading your team to go.
  • Charisma. The best leaders possess a certain je ne sais quoi, (a pleasing quality that cannot be exactly named or described). From the way they dress to the way they carry themselves; they’ve got that special something else that puts them ahead of the pack, and that was Alain Pinel in action.
  • Communication. To fully captivate and mobilize a team, leaders must perfect their communication skills.
  • Brains. It helps to be smart and, like I say, it helps to be a student of perpetual improvement. New eyes see old things in new ways, and you can show your team what you’re learning, and use it to fuel growth.
  • Passion. For leaders, their work must be their calling, and when they’re that passionate about the business, it’s absolutely contagious. You can’t help but feel passionate, too.
  • Ambition. This trait means a leader will never settle for mediocrity or stagnation, for it is the beginning of the end. They constantly want to do more, learn more, be more.
  • Humility. As Zig Ziglar once said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”

So, what’s the message? There’s no one trait that, above all others, makes you an amazing leader. Leadership, as Alain Pinel defines it, is a mix of many, many, many different characteristics that combine to make you a leader. People don’t just follow but want to follow.

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