Elite AgentProductivity & Best Practice

Lessons in leadership from sporting greats

The New Zealand All Blacks are one of the most successful sporting teams the world has ever seen. Their winning culture is based on 'doing more' and 'inspirational leadership', yet no one person is 'bigger than the jersey.' Pancho Mehrotra applies some important lessons from the All Blacks to the world of real estate.

The Rugby World Cup-winning All Blacks are the most successful international rugby team of all time; in fact, one of the most successful sporting teams in the world. Their statistics are staggering; in November 2017 the All Blacks celebrated eight years at the top of the world rugby rankings.

That’s 2,922 days at the top, playing 108 tests and winning 96.

A Winning Formula

Historically, the All Blacks have won 435 of 564 tests played, a winning ratio of 77.13 per cent, making them one of the most successful sporting teams in any international sport.

What makes this team so consistently successful, regardless of changing players, captains and coaches? As with most organisations, there are many parts that contribute to their success, but an important factor is leadership and leadership development.

It’s easy to draw parallels and implement this culture of winning and successful leadership into the real estate industry, and the corporate world in general.

So let’s talk about the key areas; what it takes to develop an inspirational leader with people that will follow you and willingly go the extra mile.

To examine the leadership style you must examine the type of culture that exists in an agency, which will indicate whether a full change or just an adjustment is required. One set of typologies based on corporate character and culture was developed by Roger Harrison (1972):

  • Power-oriented Organisations dominated by charismatic or autocratic founders
  • Achievement-oriented Organisations dominated by task results
  • Role-oriented Public bureaucracies
  • Support oriented Non-profit or religious organisations.

Most real estate agencies are either power-oriented or achievement-oriented. How they perform can vary based on the leader and leadership style.

Embracing Change

A significant development within the All Blacks is a concept called continual learning, accepting that one does not know it all and embracing a learning culture.

An important point to note is if the leadership does not develop and learn, they invariably cease to be of significance to their people. Some warning signs and consequences are disloyal staff, a loss in market share and an unhealthy working culture. Look at the graveyard of companies led by leaders who did not embrace change, such as Kodak, Sony Ericsson and Nokia.

The All Blacks change things up every six months. Not only does it keep a fresh outlook, but it also prevents people within taking things for granted. This ensures that there is no complacency.

In the last four or five years, selling real estate has been relatively easy and has seen salespeople and leaders get complacent. Getting the listing was the only thing that mattered; as buyers were ready, willing to open their cheque books, obtaining finance was easy. The skills agents used and learnt were the same that they learnt 10 years ago. They stayed the same. Leaders believed they could do no wrong.

Now that the market has turned, these same successful salespeople and leaders are struggling, not because of a lack of effort, but a lack of new skill sets – in the selling skills arena as well as mental resilience.

Getting comfortable is your enemy. A leader must be willing to constantly improve and add new dimensions to what they do.

Do More

If you think about this rationally, there is no way the All Blacks would keep on winning if they had not evolved over the last 100 years. Roger Federer would not be winning Grand Slams at the age of 36 if he did not evolve. They are certainly leaders in their field, but also role models for many. Former All Black Brad Thorn’s mantra ‘champions do extra’ helped him become one of the single most successful palyers in rugby history. This also applies to agents; an agent who is dominant in a market can easily have their market share eroded by another agent who is willing to do more.

The real estate industry is facing challenging times ahead – not only from the economic environment but also other factors, such as technology, which are disruptive factors.

I am often asked, especially by principals of businesses, how they can attract the right people, with the right attitudes and capabilities. My response is, ‘Why would someone want to work for this agency?’

Often the answer is not that inspiring. Usually they respond that they have the best systems, the best marketing, the best brands, the best agent and it goes on. The question is not really answered in concrete terms.

A successful leader must put aside their ego and be honest, aware of their failings and the areas where they and their agency need to improve. They need to embrace collective leadership, with input from the group, rather than an autocratic management style. This is an important part of learning – to respect the opinions of individuals.

Measuring Quality

A leader must align with their team, recognise the need for change and, once again, believe that the external environment can be managed. Note that I have written ‘managed’ not ‘controlled’. Believing you can control the environment is like believing you can control the weather or economic policy. A leader must believe that the environment can be managed, otherwise they will be managed by the environment.

Often people focus intently on performance numbers but not on continuous improvement to the same level. Why? Because it is easier to manage by numbers; it is quantifiable. The quality component is subjective but, in essence, this is creativity and development, where the game can be changed.

A leader must be able to make decisions under pressure and not react immaturely. The greatest All Black leader, Ritchie McCaw, was unsuccessful when he first took over the leadership role. One of his notable failures was due to the decisions he made during the 2007 Rugby World Cup. He learnt from his mistakes, continued as leader and achieved folklore status with two Rugby World Cups and countless other victories. Winning at this level does not happen by accident.

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Pancho Mehrotra

Pancho Mehrota is the CEO of Frontier Performance and a recognised leading expert in the area of communication, influence and the psychology of selling.

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