AUTHOR'S NOTE: This article was written for a real estate association newsletter and is directed at newly elected association officers. However, the concepts are the same whether it is a leader of a team, brokerage, committee or association.
Leaders aren’t born. Leaders evolve and grow over time. So, the question is: How do I become a leader?
STAGE 1 – PARTICIPATION. It is not often that someone joins an organization and is instantly recognized as a leader. It starts on a much smaller scale. It starts by attending meetings, making connections, and building relationships. It isn’t about showing up. Like effective networking, it requires a plan and active participation. It requires a commitment of both time and effort. It is all about service, making commitments, taking an action and delivering results. For example, if you attend sporadically, arrive late and leave early, and don’t participate, then you aren’t really participating and your time and effort is being wasted.
STAGE 2 – SEEK OUT A MENTOR. Depending on your experience or length of service, you may want to seek out a mentor or advisor. The mentor or advisor relationship can be a formal or informal relationship. Often, it is simply a person willing to answer questions or willing to act as a sounding board. Information and insights on the traditions of the organization and on the group dynamic are invaluable. Without such information, it would be like a child playing a game without knowing the rules. More importantly, a good mentor or advisor will assist you in identifying opportunities to take on a greater role within the organization and will encourage and challenge you to reach within and go beyond your comfort zone. Access to other leaders is also an important aspect of the mentor relationship. It opens doors and creates opportunities. More importantly, it allows you to make informed decisions on how to capitalize on opportunities.
STAGE 3 – MAKE AN IMPACT. After participating in the organization, the next step in the evolution of a leader is often accompanied by action that makes an impact on the organization. Participation leads to access and opportunities. If opportunities aren’t presenting themselves, then you need to make your own opportunities. To do so, you must first understand the mission of the organization and the dynamics of the group. You must be willing to play a role and to make a contribution in that role. It is important to step up and fill a need of the organization. As you start to contribute, your contributions will be recognized and you will have a greater role and progressive responsibilities within the organization. However, your contributions may not be fully recognized unless you are organized and take a serious professional approach. Greater opportunities will present themselves to people who play a role, who have a niche and who are willing to contribute to the success of others – whether or not the contribution or role is recognized immediately or not.
STAGE 4 – TAKE RISKS – DEVELOP A LEGACY. At this stage, you will need to articulate a vision for the organization. By doing so, you will necessarily need to take a risk. Your priorities and agenda may differ from other leaders in the organization. There will always be a risk of rejection and a fear of failure at this pont It is at this point that you will need to build a consensus. This doesn’t always occur at a meeting. Often, it occurs informally. It requires preparation and planning. Before you present an initiative, you need to ask:
(1) Is there a need? Or, does it solve a problem?
(2) Does it further the mission of the organization?
(3) Do we have the resources – money, time or personnel – to do it right?
(4) Will stakeholders buy into the initiative?
After you have answered these questions, then proceed by proposing and implement an initiative. It isn’t about getting it done – it is about getting it done in an exemplary manner. Every leader needs to establish a legacy to answer the question – Did I leave the organization in a better position than when I started?
STAGE 5 – PREPARE FOR LEADERSHIP POSITIONS. At some point in your development as a leader, you may have to submit an application for an appointment, meet for an interview or stand for election. Here are some tips for seeking an appointment or being elected within an organization:
- Build a strong legacy of service with quantifiable results.
- Maintain and continually update your resume or curriculum vitae. Keep it simple, straightforward and accurate.
- Understand the duties, responsibilities and time commitment of the position that you seek.
- Assess your skills. Seek a position that matches your skills. Be the right person for the right job, not just any job.
- Manage your time. Don’t try to be everywhere. Limit your commitments.
- Make sure that your family and business commitments are met or managed.
- Understand the selection process. Know the participants in the process. Understand the rules associated with the process.
- Seek out mentors and advisors to guide you. Ask others for assistance and advice.
- Develop a team to assist you. Don’t try to do it all yourself.
- Think strategically. Consider timing and the strengths of others seeking the same office.
- Delegate campaign tasks to others.
- Create a vision and professional message. Show (not tell) your qualifications for the position. Share your goals and priorities for the office that you seek.
- Use testimonials and endorsements, if appropriate.
- Prepare for the nominating interview. Review sample questions. Write out answers to possible interview questions. Anticipate and plan for questions that relate to perceived weaknesses. Role play questions and answers so you are comfortable with your responses. Pay attention to the words you use in the interview. With limited time, errant words may be misconstrued.
- Take a copy of your nomination application, consent to serve, resume or curriculum vitae, or other credential forms to the nominating interview.
- Prepare for your public speech. Develop a theme to your comments. Make your comments short and concise. Avoid flowery phrases and clichés. Offer tangible examples of your past accomplishments and priorities for the future.
- Communicate your priories to supporters, key leaders in organization and general membership. Tailor the method of communication, number of contacts and message to the targeted audience. Make sure the message is consistent.
- Be judicious in the language used.
- Be gracious whether you win or lose. Today’s opponents may just be tomorrow’s supporters. Be sure to thank your supporters, mentors, etc. for their advice and assistance.
STAGE 6 – YOU KNOW YOU HAVE MATURED AS A LEADER WHEN… Leadership styles evolve over time. You know that you have matured as a leader when you:
- Limit your commitments to manageable levels.
- Establish a clear agenda for your work. Are able to communicate your vision and goals to others.
- Set and communicate reasonable expectations for yourself and others. Require accountability of yourself and others. Track progress toward goals.
- Learn to delegate tasks and share responsibility. Are able and willing to acknowledge contributions and share praise.
- Build consensus without compromising core values. Are committed to decisive action.
- Focus on progress, not perfection.
- Pick battles in a judicious manner. Learn when and when not to speak out. Focus on issues, not people. Maintain a professional and civil tone. Think before speaking or sending e-mails. Sound a conciliatory tone to create cohesiveness.
- Motivate others to exceed expectations for their position.
- Focus on the right person with the right skills when filling positions.
- Develop a bold and aggressive vision for the organization. “Give back” to profession is sole focus.
- Encourage and support the development and personal growth of the next class of leaders.
- Act in the best interests of the organization as a whole.
- Take a long-term, strategic view on issues. Understand the big picture. In the end, leaders understand the nature and demands of leadership and service and never stop evolving as leaders.
NEED TRAINING MATERIALS FOR NEW OFFICER ORIENTATION? Contact Ryan Shaughnessy at PREA Signature Realty at 314-971-4381 or via e-mail to Ryan@PREASignatureRealty.com for more information.