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The power of servant leadership


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Every once in a while, we suffer a shock to our economy that fundamentally alters the way we do business. My parents were impacted by the savings and loan crisis in the late 1980s. Many of us in the real estate industry felt the effects of the 2008 recession. Now we find ourselves at a critical moment once more: and it’s in these moments we can find opportunities to serve.

The world has changed in a matter of weeks, and people are feeling blindsided and off-balance. Agents are no different. We also feel destabilized and unsure how to proceed — but in some ways, we’re built for this. Perhaps we’ve never been thrown a curveball this big before, but we’re well practiced at adapting, persevering, and providing crucial support and compassion to those who need it.

So right now, as the world is reeling from an unexpected present and an uncertain future, it’s time for us to step up. We are a resilient industry and people; we can rise to meet the needs of our current crisis. Here’s why I believe real estate agents are uniquely positioned to empower our communities in times of stress, and how we can take action.

Agents are already leaders

In real estate, and especially in the luxury space, providing exceptional service has always been our top priority. That’s nothing new. And in turbulent circumstances like today’s, that’s one of the few things that hasn’t changed. In fact, an agent’s ability to provide clear communication, pass on practical advice, and connect people with resources close to home has never mattered more.

The legendary motivational speaker and author Zig Ziglar once said, “You can get everything you want in life, if you will just help other people get what they want.” For me, that simple principle encapsulates the entire philosophy of servant leadership: we succeed because we help others succeed. Servant leaders paint vision. And the vision is: we can get through this, and we will get through this.

In my own practice, I prefer to focus on the second half of Ziglar’s mantra. If I can create pathways and environments that support people reaching their goals, then I’m fulfilled. As agents, we’ve spent our entire careers championing our communities and bringing our neighborhoods together, and that pillar of strength is exactly what’s needed now. And there are three communities we have a special opportunity to look out for in the midst of upheaval.

1. Our real estate community

luxury library

Venture Sotheby’s International Realty

Small businesses are the beating heart of this country, and they’re struggling right now — including us. Even if we work under larger real estate organizations, at our core we’re community-based, locally operated offices, and in this unprecedented situation it’s a challenge for us, our partners, and our employees to do our jobs.

You can respond to crises by serving the people in your work world. Provide a sense of stability, security, and assurance for your team, and if you can, build it out to your wider network. I’ve facilitated training sessions and calls with over a thousand agents in the last five days because, like it or not, this has transformed the way we work — and some of the changes will be permanent.

When things return to normal, it will be a new normal. We’ll need another set of skills, tools, and technology as we navigate change and continue to provide value in the long term. I’m planning an online class on how to conduct our business and moderate meetings virtually — because the future of real estate will likely include more digital touchpoints than ever before.

Use this time to offer your peers new skills and build their confidence. Make sure your team feels fully equipped as we move toward an increasingly tech-enabled future.

2. Our community of clients

luxury living room

Venture Sotheby’s International Realty

Some agents are hesitant with technology because they’re worried it depersonalizes the business. But in situations like this, where we’re seeing less of our clients face to face, it turns out that the opposite is true. Technology helps us strengthen our relationships with our clients by showing us just how close to each other we really are.

I know agents who keep in contact with their clients via Zoom and FaceTime, letting them know that they’re happy to help in any way they can, and that they’ll still be there when the dust finally settles. They’re doing virtual happy hours with their client databases and video chatting over morning cups of coffee. They’re hosting digital backyard barbecues, and inviting clients to pour their favorite drink and join in via video conference. They’re sharing content to stay connected, whether it’s a favorite family recipe or a home workout routine.

And when they can, they’re keeping business online and using technology to be innovative. We can all discover creative ways to host events that we can’t do in person — events that continue to deliver value to clients in truly exceptional ways.

3. The community at large

luxury living room

Venture Sotheby’s International Realty

This is also a critical time to be of service to the people and communities around us — those who perhaps aren’t part of our sphere of influence, but who are a part of our daily lives. This is where agents can truly shine as servant leaders.

I’ve seen colleagues reach out to small businesses and support local restaurants, following distancing protocols while delivering takeout to neighbors. Agents broadcast on social media about what people can do to help keep the lights on at their favorite shops and services, and share their platforms with other businesses. They post Instagram stories and Facebook Live feeds, providing insights on how people can keep active, stay positive, and make a difference in this difficult situation.

I feel like I have a front-row seat as agents shift from being home-based to community-based, and I couldn’t be prouder of the resourcefulness, ingenuity, and passion our industry has been showing. By adding value right now, when it counts, agents are also providing messages of hope.

I truly believe that telling the story of your business community is the best thing a real estate agent can be doing right now. And the worst thing we can do is nothing.

Simon Sinek talks about how, above all else, people want relationships. This crisis has driven home just how essential these relationships are, and that technology can only enhance them, not replace them. We’re all in this together. And when we reach the light at the end of this tunnel, you will see agents with their sleeves rolled up who truly embraced their role as servant leaders in the community.

Ryan Secrist

Ryan Secrist is a real estate professional and national trainer and coach. His career achievements range from being awarded Rookie of the Year to consistently placing in the top percentile of producing agents. His “can do” spirit, positive attitude, and passion for creating environments where people can achieve their goals influenced many to align with his companies. As a result, Secrist has managed top producing teams and offices and has grown many individual agents to the 100 million to 200 million dollar production levels. He has also owned and operated several real estate franchises, primarily in California. He feels it is important to give back to the industry regardless of brand or affiliation. Secrist resides in Danville, CA with his wife and three children. He enjoys fitness and weightlifting, outdoor activities, and travel.

About Sotheby’s International Realty

Sotheby’s International Realty was founded in 1976 as a real estate service for discerning clients of Sotheby’s auction house. Today, the company’s global footprint spans 990 offices located in 72 countries and territories worldwide, including 43 company-owned brokerage offices in key metropolitan and resort markets. In February 2004, Realogy entered into a long-term strategic alliance with Sotheby’s, the operator of the auction house. The agreement provided for the licensing of the Sotheby’s International Realty name and the development of a franchise system. The franchise system is comprised of an affiliate network, where each office is independently owned and operated. Sotheby’s International Realty supports its affiliates and agents with a host of operational, marketing, recruiting, educational and business development resources. Affiliates and agents also benefit from an association with the venerable Sotheby’s auction house, established in 1744. For more information, visit

The affiliate network is operated by Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC, and the company owned brokerages are operated by Sotheby’s International Realty, Inc. Both entities are subsidiaries of Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY) a global leader in real estate franchising and provider of real estate brokerage, relocation and settlement services. Sotheby’s International Realty Affiliates LLC and Sotheby’s International Realty Inc., both fully support the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act.

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