Thoughts on Leadership: Celebrating Women’s History Month

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me starting Monday at home, participating in WIG calls. On Tuesday, I participated virtually in the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties Pinnacle Awards Event, led by New Jersey Properties Chairman and CEO Bill Keleher. On Wednesday, I joined meetings, prepared for today and am writing this as I fly to Louisville, KY for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Sales Convention.

March is Women’s History Month and if you’re looking for a place to be inspired by incredible, trailblazing women leaders, “Women Who Lead,” the video series (and now podcast) from HomeServices of America’s Chief Diversity Equity and Inclusion Officer Teresa Palacios Smith is an excellent place to start.

This week, Teresa hosted two fantastic leaders and real estate industry luminaries – Linda Sherrer, founder and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty and Liz Nunan, president and CEO of Houlihan Lawrence. If you missed the episode, you can watch it on the Women Who Lead Facebook page here or read on for some key takeaways from the conversation:

Excellent leadership starts with a selfless desire to serve. Linda was a Navy wife in the 70s and moved to Hawai’i with her husband where they purchased their first home. (Another fun fact Linda shared about her life was that growing up in Miami, she was asked to be one of the original Coppertone babies, featured on billboards, products and in the company’s marketing campaigns. But back to Hawai’i …) Within days of buying the house, Linda’s husband was deployed to Vietnam, leaving Linda to close on the home by herself. She describes sitting at that closing table a “sobering situation” because she knew she was obligating her family to a lot by purchasing the $30,000 property. However, this story has a happy ending as just two-and-a-half years later, the home sold for $60,500. The impact of that home purchase turning into a lucrative investment inspired Linda. She told herself that when she returned to the mainland, she’d get her real estate license and said, “I am going to help other people do exactly as I did.”

Leadership is about expanding your knowledge beyond your role by simply offering to help. Liz describes how she volunteered to get involved with other aspects of the company outside of her job description. She created the social strategy, trained agents on global luxury affiliations, planned company-wide events and offered her assistance when needed. “It helped me to become very well rounded,” she explains.

When an opportunity arises, seize it, and don’t let go. Before Linda founded a company, she was a REALTOR®, a relocation director and did site work managing properties. When the opportunity to start a company presented itself, she went with it and didn’t look back. When the opportunity to join the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brokerage network came about, she knew it was a tremendous chance “to work with a company so respected globally.” Looking back on her iconic career, Linda says, “It was an evolution. It was not a vision. I wish I could say it was, but it really just evolved, and I seized the opportunities as they came by.”

Authenticity rules but even the most authentic leaders can’t do it alone. With Liz, what you see is what you get. She says leadership is about being both authentic and approachable and also building a network of team members who can provide support. “Always try to be a role model in whatever position you’re in,” says Liz. “Believe in yourself and what you’re capable of but also cultivate strong relationships with people; most people love to help others succeed.”

Utilize the knowledge of mentors. Teresa says when looking for a mentor, find someone who has the time, someone you respect and admire and someone who you can learn from to achieve your specific goals. “With podcasts and all of these different resources available to you, it’s so easy to follow people in our industry,” she explains.

Growth is necessary for positive momentum and change. If you’re comfortable, Linda says, then you aren’t growing as much as you need to. (Like I say, smugness comes before arrogance, and arrogance is the precursor to disaster. Once you think you know it all, your slide to mediocrity has already begun.) “If you’re not growing, you’re going backwards,” Linda explains.

Your success is a vehicle to drive others to succeed. As Teresa reiterates on the podcast session, “Always bring other women with you as you climb to the top.”

So, what’s the message? This month is a time to celebrate the extraordinary women in our lives, but the truth is, every day is a chance to shine a spotlight on the incredible women in history and in leadership whose mission to achieve a more inclusive tomorrow starts with the change they create today.

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