Monday, April 7, 2008

What Kind of Leader Do You Need to Be Right Now?

It is easy to lead when everything is going well. In times like that managers who are stable, conscientious, and reliable will keep the ship headed in the right direction, but probably at a slow pace. Difficult times, however, call for a different kind of leadership. The same manager who kept you on course before will run the ship aground more often than not in troubled waters. In case you haven’t noticed, these are difficult times in the Real Estate world. Year over year performance forecasts show 2008 delivering a 10%-14% decline over 2007 and project a further 7%-11% drop in 2009 before beginning to recover in 2010. GDP growth is very slow, unemployment is up, overall real estate transaction volume is expected to decline by 20%-30% or greater, depending on market segment.

So, what are you going to do about it? How are you going to lead? If leadership guides the helm then leaders are responsible for what got us here, and for what will get us out. Great leaders know how to adapt their styles to changing conditions. The conditions of the moment require leadership that rises to the occasion, is decisive, and bold.

It is always a Vision thing. Remember, the vision of your organization is its unifying theme. If it has become clouded and you don’t feel everyone has the same goals and purpose in sight, then start re-energizing the vision. Sell it over and over. Mobilize around it and test everything you do against it. Any new initiative either supports the vision or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t then it gets no discussion, period.

Model the behavior you expect of others. Employees want to see behavior that they know exemplifies the best. They want to see leaders engaged, focused, and on point. They will follow those who demonstrate intelligence, energy, and commitment to what is right. Being this visible, however, is a challenge for some leaders. They want to maintain a nonplussed fa├žade when what is really needed is boldness. Get up out of your leather seat, be visible, set the agenda, and lead!

Demand the same of staff. All of us are tempted in uncertain times to become more conservative. And, in some cases a conservative strategy is the right strategy. But strategy is one thing, performance another. Staff who are either uncertain of themselves or unwilling to take responsibility are not ones that will contribute to solutions and help create success. It is a hard thing to do, but hard times put a premium on performance. One of a leader’s key responsibilities is to provide staff with appropriate skill development tools and other opportunities, and to see that those who demonstrate increased value as a result are rewarded. Those who choose to hunker down until the storm blows over may be making themselves painfully visible in an unfortunate way.

Be accountable, always. Ownership is a wonderful thing, especially if you are proud of what you own. And you ‘own’ your accountability and its impact on the organization around you. Don’t want your staff being indecisive? Then don’t be. Don’t want your staff pointing fingers when mistakes are made? Then take responsibility for your own.

Next week I will share a few tactical opportunities that present themselves in tough business times. For now, however, spend some time looking in the mirror. Is your vision focused, are you demonstrating the kind of behavior that will generate success and demanding the same of others, and is you accountability quotient as high as it should be? Focus on first things first, we’ll get to the tactical next week.

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