The real estate industry sees constant change, from the ups and downs of the market to the new faces in brokerages and on bus benches. One of the most noticeable changes I’ve seen is in the diversity of our brokerage leaders.
Over the decades, more and more women have entered leadership positions, and I wanted the chance to learn more from them about what it takes to lead a brokerage today.
Three brokers, Joanne Evans from Century 21 Millennium, Geneva Tetreault from Century 21 Masters and Laurie Brugger from Century 21 Westman, all sat down with me to share their perspectives on leadership and what they’ve learned over the course of their distinguished careers.
1) Don’t try to be someone else’s idea of a leader
It can be intimidating to step into a leadership role, and doubly so as a young woman, but all three brokers agreed that they had to find what worked for them. By being their most authentic selves, they were able to discover what worked for each of them and, in turn, their agents.
“Someone told me I wasn’t cutthroat enough,” Tetreault says. “I went home and really thought about whether or not I was going to make it in this business, I kept rolling it around, and I came to the really cool conclusion that I was going to show up and be myself.
She adds, “It was a moment that really challenged me and made me ask myself if I needed to change what I was doing in order to succeed, and 15 years later, I’m really glad I didn’t.”
“You’re not going to be everyone’s favourite person, and that’s okay,” Evans says. “In the beginning, winning respect was the biggest challenge, and you really have to know your business. But eventually, you’ll earn the respect—whether someone gives it to you, that’s their choice. But when you have the confidence to know how far you’ve come, you’ll see how your unique perspective is an asset.
“I used my communication skills and my ability to listen, and I believe that knowing how to nurture relationships really helped my career.”
2) Be ready to change with the industry
I mentioned earlier that real estate is constantly changing, and all three brokers agreed that the best leader is adaptable. “You need to be a futurist, and you most definitely need to know what trends are coming,” Brugger affirms. “You need knowledge and the desire to keep learning and pushing forward. I sign up for training courses and leadership courses; I watch the news.
“You need to be dedicated to always learning, accept that we’ve never arrived where we know everything, and be flexible while also standing by your core values.”
“Knowledge is power,” adds Evans. “You need to know at least twice as much as everyone else to be taken seriously as a leader, and you have to be on your toes.”
3) Always be willing to listen and learn from others
“You need to check your ego at the door,” Evans continues. “Some of the best ideas that I’ve incorporated into our company have been from our agents, and the willingness to listen and to work with them is a real asset when you’re leading.”
If there’s one thing that stood out from me during our conversation, it’s that the best leaders excel in making others feel seen and understood.
Bruggers knows this well: “A huge part is emotional intelligence. You need to be able to communicate with your people and know exactly how each person ticks and always have an open door for them.”
4) Remember that everyone is human—including yourself
Leaders have to be strong for their agents, but the modern leader isn’t afraid to acknowledge that everyone has challenging days. Agents are human; a good broker will work with them, not against them.
“If someone wants to know an opinion, I will give them the truth quickly, but in a kind way,” Tetreault says. “That way, we can look for opportunities, and I think that style of elevating and lifting each other up is a big piece of my leadership. I show up for my agents every day, and we’ve created a culture where if you can’t be at your best on a day, we work together and ask how we can help each other get back to that.”
“If you’re having a bad day, you’re having a bad day,” acknowledges Bruggers. “You have to keep it in check, but there needs to be humanity involved in leadership and that’s very important. I feel that leadership used to be viewed more as someone being alone at the top, but now I feel that successful leaders are pushing their team up from the bottom.”
There’s a lot that makes a good leader, and every brokerage needs someone a little different to best suit their needs. I was so grateful to learn from these three remarkable women and to see what they’ve brought to their companies to help them thrive.
If you’re a broker or in a leadership position in your brokerage, I hope these perspectives have helped you think about how your leadership style can continue to grow and evolve into something that allows you to continue elevating your agents to their fullest potential. And if you’re an agent who finds that this conversation has resonated with you, I hope this helps you open a dialogue with your broker or possibly even inspires you to seek out a leadership role for yourself.
Chiyoko Kakino is senior vice president of Brand Growth at CENTURY 21 Canada, and host of The Real Estate: Real Success Podcast.