Great Leaders in Hard Times: Essential Qualities
Every entity on Earth has a leader, which is why my next point is so disconcerting: Just about everywhere you look, there’s a dearth of effective leadership.
In several past posts (like this one and this one, too), I’ve discussed leadership overall; today, here are the essential qualities (in my opinion) that set great leaders apart from the rest when things get rough.
When there’s failure, they take responsibility.
No entity can truly succeed without great leadership – and no great leader is going to be right 100% of the time. When things get rough, mediocre leaders look for external causes: changing economies, geopolitical unrest, natural or manmade disasters, ill-fitting shoes. Whatever has rocked a company, family, cult or bowling league off course, so-so leaders find ways to delegate the blame.
Great leaders, on the other hand, act as lightning rods for all the good and bad that comes their way. Yes, the economy may have taken a turn, but if the leader didn’t read the tape and see that coming, then it’s the leader’s fault that quarterly results are off or the stock tanked, not the economy’s. And when acknowledgement of one’s mistake is sincere, the results can be remarkable.
When there’s uncertainty, they act with clarity and transparency.
We see it all the time in business and politics and in our personal lives, too: In the face of challenge, people want to act with decisiveness to bring about efficient and effective resolutions, but because most of us hate confrontation, we take actions that are confusing at best and sometimes extremely dangerous.
For example, dodging a difficult situation is rarely peaceably resolved with “Go ask your mother” – it simply prolongs everyone’s agony. Declaring war on another country without reason and exhaustion of all other means of resolving conflict is not great leadership – it’s thoughtless and egotistic bullying at its absolute worst because countless lives are lost or otherwise destroyed. The lack of transparency is devastating.
And in business today, we see rampant examples of indecision, back-pedaling and bullying in lieu of strong leadership: One only needs to review the actions of Elon Musk in recent months to get a sense of that. Another example is the chaos within the residential real estate industry, particularly with companies that expanded too quickly or promised too much. They’re talking their way around problems – an approach that usually results in deeper holes – rather than facing them with clarity and reason.
When evolution is needed, they lead the change.
If you read this blog often enough, then you know that I’ve recently launched a new brokerage, EQTY | Forbes Global Properties, and I’ve had a lot of people ask why I chose to partner with the Forbes brand this time around.
The choice was simple and clear: We pursued partnership with Forbes because it’s the leading integrated media/technology/finance/lifestyle conglomerate in the world – and from where I stand, that’s the future of residential real estate.
I’d been involved with Forbes for some time, as a reader/user first and as a contributor later, and I have immense respect for the brand, its reach and its leadership. As a team, we knew that securing this partnership for our brokerage was a huge opportunity: The worldwide respect and reach of Forbes is beyond anything that we could develop on our own and we can offer value and touchpoints and culture and efficiency out of the starting gate. In fact, Forbes has 78% of the market share of media recognition in the real estate sector. These points are particularly important to our team as we launch in a time of economic and industry uncertainty.
I recognize that the business of buying and selling residential real estate must change for agents and clients alike and, with our Forbes partnership, I aim to lead us through the evolution. From past experience, I know the power of partnering with a global brand and Forbes is the right brand at the right time for residential real estate.
When anomalies rule, they reposition, not reinvent.
These are the most elementary and universal rules of life: Nothing lasts forever and what goes up must come down.
One has to wonder, then, about this: What are corporate leaders thinking when they pull out these “unimaginable challenges” that follow their earnings reports and subsequent massive layoffs? It’s shocking to me to hear leaders say they didn’t see the current situation – who thinks that the ups will last forever?? That’s just sticking heads in sand.
Looking back on Zillow’s ibuying catastrophe, for example, was it really not obvious that they were buying too high, that the market would change, that the Covid-fueled buying frenzy would cool down?
These were apparent from the get-go but when you pivot your business during times of uncertainty not for survival but, rather, to reinvent it to capitalize on a short-lived anomaly, that’s setting your company up for disaster.
Certainly, it’s fine to leverage opportunities but, in my opinion, not at the risk of the long-term health and well-being of a company, its employees and its investors. To that end, I credit Zillow’s leadership with taking responsibility and jumping out almost as quickly as it jumped in. That may be the leadership’s saving grace.