Will Gosse: Why authenticity and identity are key for aspiring young leaders

At age 28, Will Gosse became BresicWhitney’s first Chief Operating Officer. In this piece, he shares how he turned a part-time sales associate role into an established management career.

If you’re a millennial, you will likely have grown up believing you could be and achieve anything you set your mind to.

If you’re a millennial and reading this, chances are that it’s this belief that’s helped propel your career forward in real estate – Australia’s biggest industry.

A little about me. I was recruited into the cadet program at investment bank UBS straight out of high school.

After several years of working and studying a Bachelor of Commerce, my eagerness faded and burnout took hold.

I was as ambitious as I was inexperienced, and at 20, grappled with this core generational belief that while I could be or do anything I set out to, I wasn’t feeling inspired to do so.

As fate would have it, I was offered a part-time sales associate job.

With the mindset that it’d provide income and new skills while I planned my next move and career aspirations in the finance sector, I accepted it.

My assumptions about the real estate industry were quicky dissolved once I started.

While I knew I wasn’t too interested in being a sales agent, I realised that no two days were the same for almost anyone in the agency.

A career in real estate meant I wasn’t going to be deskbound like I’d found myself just a few weeks earlier, and the people and clients were interesting, passionate, and authentic.

The years that followed saw me take on increased responsibility across BresicWhitney’s wider agency operations and involved in initiatives from building our off-market selling platform, to major brand-focused creative projects.

My hunger for active problem-solving had met its match, and my interest in the future of the industry – particularly around how technology and innovation could move us forward – was ignited. 

At age 26 (with the trust and support of the shareholder group at the time) I joined them as the only non-sales member and bought into the business.

I’m now 29, and the Chief Operating Officer.

What I’ve learnt and the opportunities I’ve been afforded I think are worth highlighting – not least because it’s important to debunk the perception that to have career clout as a millennial, you need to have a roster of companies on your resume.

1. Get inside your head

Everyone talks about getting out of your own head, but sometimes it pays to get inside it, especially for those at the earlier stages of their career.

I hadn’t had much time to do this type of internal work in my early 20s – I’d been too focused on my next achievement or project.

However, actively working on and exploring my strengths, abilities, limitations and even triggers gave me insight into the way I wanted to operate and how I could do it.

To this day, it continues to give me a conscious choice when approaching and responding to the many challenging or exciting circumstances I find myself faced with.

It’s allowed me to not take things too personally, to communicate with cut-through and to navigate negotiations with a sensitivity and maturity I’d not had prior.

I see this as an important investment in your career – akin to the mantra of ‘doing the work’ that’s often spoken about in sales – and just as important for anyone with leadership aspirations.

2. Embrace your holistic identity

Who are you, really? What are the attributes, life skills and passions that make you a son, a brother, and a friend? These are questions I asked myself as my professional responsibilities grew.

I could feel a disconnect between who I was in the office and who I was outside of it.

I wasn’t trying to fit a certain mould, but it’s possible I hadn’t yet realised the benefits that these diverse skills would bring to my career.

The very skills that I draw on now every day when aiming to inspire a team of wonderfully diverse individuals; and the nuances of managing a team of task-focused peers with those who think almost exclusively in the ‘big picture’.

Whether you’re managing a team, a property, or a sale, embracing your holistic identity will help you bring your best self to work.

And that’s good for everyone.

3. Cultivate confidence and conviction

For any aspiring leader, there’s no one single trick that will help you communicate in a room of people with two or three times more experience than you.

But if there is one, perhaps it’s to remind yourself that if you’ve got a seat at the table, it’s for a reason.

Whether you’re aiming to dominate a specific market or lead a business unit, it’s powerful to bring people on the journey with you.

Always be willing to share the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of what you’re proposing.

Be prepared to answer questions, especially the hard ones.

No-one has an unending source of confidence and conviction, but it can be built by continued trust in yourself, your ability and never forgetting the immense value and opportunity in listening to the opinions of others.

4. Admit defeat and always ask questions

Admitting you don’t know an answer to a question, or when you were wrong, may seem contradictory for a young leader who’s trying to build confidence and conviction, but it complements it.

It does this because you learn the answer to whatever it is that you previously didn’t know. You’ve grown, in that very moment.

Asking questions will give you a deep insight into your industry, your market, the company you work for, and importantly, your colleagues.

And when you get to know the people you see every day, I’ve found it makes work and life that much more interesting and inspiring. 

5. Lead by example and with authenticity

When you work in a close-knit team and an industry that values high performance, you can feel pressure to emulate the behaviours and habits of others.

But the wonderful thing about having peers at various life and career stages is that it builds a culture where success looks different for everyone.

I feel fortunate to work alongside new and seasoned parents, peers working part-time on a passion project or those providing compassion and care for a loved one.

And in my current role, it’s so important to me to ensure my habits reflect my understanding of this diversity.

If you’re an aspiring leader, I encourage you to mirror behaviour and habits that’ll empower your team to fulfil both their dreams and their demands.

You see, real estate was never where I thought I could do my best work, but perhaps that’s because I didn’t understand it.

I hadn’t seen the many diverse, stimulating and fulfilling pathways real estate provides.

I didn’t know there was an ongoing appetite for independent thought and leadership, or that the enjoyment of continual improvement and collaboration I felt was shared by so many.

If you’ve read this far, I hope real estate is a place you feel inspired to do your best work. I know I do. 

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