BrokerageIndustry VoicesOpinion

Who will take the place of today’s leaders?

As one generation of industry leaders is slowly leaving the industry, the question always arises, “Who will be the next generation of leaders to take their place?” Often, the one who is aging and fading questions whether the next generation has what it takes to lead the company forward.

I recall (like it was yesterday) that at the age of 26, I was hired as the Executive Director of a firm called Intercommunity Relocation (ICR) which was a network of some of the largest independent brokerage firms in the country. Through many mergers and acquisitions, many of its members are the backbone of what is today Leading Real Estate Companies of the World.

I had never run a business; never supervised anyone. But with the guidance of the board of directors and a great staff, we not only survived the onslaught of Homequity and Merrill Lynch’s launch of their own networks but prospered for many years. And, I received the best education money can buy—that of the older generation who were more than willing to share everything they had learned.

Through my work with several CEO groups, of which we’ve had the pleasure of working with for over 25 years, I’ve observed the next generation up close. My view is that the industry is going to be in very good hands.

These next-generation young leaders have had the benefit of learning from the owners or family members of large brokerage firms—some since they were in grade school. Many have incorporated the work ethic of their parents, other family members or leaders of brokerage firms for whom they work. Many have worked their way through successful real estate sales careers along with management duties.

The ones I know are not in the least infected with what many call the “disease of the Millennial generation.”  We’ve all read and heard that Millennials are entitled, not hard-working, have few discernable job skills, etc. I think that would be like saying that all Boomers were hippies (which if you lived through the ‘60s you would have thought so.) In fact, there is no way to label one generation with such broad characterizations without making a huge mistake. Even most Boomers ultimately grew up to become outstanding leaders in business, government, education and the non-profit world.

In our practice, we’ve had the pleasure of serving both the Boomer and Gen-X generations of leaders. Now, we are meeting and engaging with the Millennial generation. A few observations:

  • They are just as smart as our generation and likely smarter in many ways. Those whom I’ve met are smarter about many things than our generation at the same age.
  • They are less tolerant of foolishness than we were. I don’t mean they are egregious or intolerant, just that they have less patience for agents and employees who won’t work hard and apply themselves.
  • In some ways, they are more ambitious and eager to grow, learn and expand than we prior generations. Certainly, they are more adventurous.
  • Their technological talent is well beyond ours, as is their general knowledge of the business aspect of realty services.
  • They and this business will have an entirely new environment to work in than we did. Boomers and Gen-X have lived through a great deal of tumult, as I expect this next generation will do as well. And, they will do quite a bit of learning along the way.

As you would with any people in your organizations, don’t be fooled by what is said about this young generation. My view is that most of them want what we wanted—growth, success and a rich, full life for themselves and their families.