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Retired Marine turned broker shares leadership lessons

What do the U.S. Marine Corps and real estate have in common when it comes to brokerage leaders? The unique qualities used to describe both Marines and real estate professionals — goal-oriented and trained leaders — make for an easy connection.

When it comes to effective leadership, the principles that Marines follow can be applied to a variety of situations, especially real estate. As a retired Marine with more than 23 years of service, and now the training lead for ERA Evergreen Real Estate Company, I help to advance our team by leaning on what I learned as a Marine.

Here are four tips to help you strengthen your leadership skills, overcome obstacles and support others in difficult situations.

Lead with passion

I learned early on that if I wanted to engage with a platoon of Marines and motivate them into action, I needed to be a leader with passion and excitement. 

One of my first duty stations was Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where I served as a translator for my commander and a Corporal of the Guard. In this role, I was responsible for a platoon of Marines, assigning them tasks they didn’t want to do. At 5’5” and 120 pounds, my physical stature wasn’t going to be what made people listen to me.

As a result, by leading with passion, I was able to motivate them to get the job done. For example, to ensure that the Marines had desirable meals to keep up their strength and morale, we cooked the meals for the post standers, and I delivered them. From this day forward, the passion I had for my men and our mission paid itself forward through their continued success and commitment to any goal that I set for us to accomplish.     

Real estate leaders can do this with real estate agents through your sales meeting, recognition and product launches.

Instill confidence with competence

One of the best ways to get people to take action is to make them believe they can and instill a sense of unwavering confidence in their abilities. The better leaders are at something, the more confident you will feel. The better trained my Marines were, the more competence they had, which enhanced their performance.

How do we gain competence? Practice, repetition, asking for help, listening to feedback, making corrections — rinse and repeat. As a leader, your role as a teacher is critical. The researcher behind the “10,000 hours to become an expert” concept said that while practice is certainly part of it, the quality of the teacher plays an even more important part. Your job as a real estate leader includes being a teacher and a mentor.

Represent your Brand

As a recruiter in Austin, Texas, I learned that the Marines is a brand.

When people hear the word “Marines,” certain things come to mind — perhaps Semper Fidelis – Semper Fi for short. This motto translates as “always faithful” and embodies the Marine Corps’ forever commitment to their fellow Marines, the United States and our citizens. Other characteristics of the brand that people may associate with the Marines include discipline, determination and honor.

As a Marine, I was always “on brand” and conducted myself appropriately. This concept translates to brokerage leaders and their affiliated agents. Brokers must walk the talk and serve as an example for what the firm presents to the public. In a competitive industry like real estate, having a strong brand is key to differentiation and success.

Build Your Team

To create a strong team at your brokerage, you must ensure that everyone is moving forward together — no one left behind. In the military, we’re taught that we’re nothing without each other. A well-functioning team is the goal, and the best way to create that team is by setting expectations and holding people accountable to them.

I learned that having a plan is key, but in combat, no plan survives first contact with the enemy. That’s why being able to adapt and improvise plans supports the team’s ability to meet expectations.

In real estate, I’ve come to learn that our enemy is time. The more time that elapses between task and completion, the likelihood of completion diminishes. That’s why working with your team to set expectations and deadlines through accountability measures is paramount – even if you have to adapt the plan midway.

After more than two decades in the military, I’ve had ample opportunity to study and practice leadership at many levels. My philosophy on leadership is that the goal is not fame or glory, awards or medals. As a leader, my job is to help people be better today than they were yesterday. It’s an approach that worked as a Marine and one that I will lean on in my leadership role in real estate.

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