Seven Leadership Lessons from the Hosts of Empire Building

Sarah Stotz| June 16, 2020

At the heart of organizational growth and innovation is effective leadership. Leaders are the link between the present and future. Their vision – and corresponding action – helps incite motivation and inspires achievement. Yet, the road to leadership is not easy, as shared by some of the industry’s most influential leaders – Wendy Papasan, Sarah Reynolds, Seychelle Van Poole, and Vija Williams. In KW’s newest podcast, Empire Building, these successful entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and mothers offer important perspectives on overcoming challenges to lead with compassion and confidence.

Combat loneliness with community 

Feelings of loneliness and isolation aren’t uncommon for leaders. “Especially as your world and business get bigger,” shares Van Poole.

Before loneliness sets in, identify and lean into a community that can help you feel affirmed, confident, and supported. Whether that’s joining an existing organization or forming your own networking group, like the hosts of Empire Building did. Regardless of which route you choose, make sure to surround yourself with people you admire. 

“Who you surround yourself with is really everything,” reminds Papasan. “You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with.”

Beyond the podcast, the four hosts are joined by seven other top women in real estate who carry the same passion for living a big life.They meet regularly for masterminds and video calls to support and hold each other accountable.

Succeed through others

“A lot of times, as entrepreneurs, we hear you need to work 24 hours a day,” admits Papasan. “When, in reality, the best leaders learn to make strategic time management choices and understand the art of leverage.” 

If the concept of leverage is new to you, begin by assessing your strengths and flexing your “no” muscle. Every time you say “no” to tasks or projects that aren’t in your wheelhouse, you expand and create massive opportunities for those within your empire. 

Reynolds learned this when she stopped working late nights to be home for dinner and bedtime with her family. By drawing the line and setting boundaries, she’s been able to spend more quality time with her family, open opportunities for others to develop as leaders, and double her business’s revenue.

Cast a vision big enough for your whole team

Reynolds finds inspiration from KW CEO Gary Keller, who lives by the sentiment that ‘the best leaders build a vision big enough to where others see themselves in it.’

To ensure that this happens, the podcast’s hosts encourage you to sit down with your team members and create a five-year plan. Dig into everyone’s personal vision so you can plan inclusive and cohesive growth. Whether it’s wanting to be a part of building an expansion team, growing into a new role, or simply new skill development, your team members’ aspirations-turned-reality create big wins all around. 

Reynolds finds the process extremely rewarding, especially when she receives feedback and sees team members flourish. She remembers a text message from one of her first hires, which read: “If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be able to go on this vacation. Not only am I on vacation, but I paid for it.” 

Inspire confidence with open communication

The natural tendency for most leaders is to operate in a vacuum and keep forging ahead. Fight the temptation to do this by writing a weekly email or holding a regular meeting to share current priorities with those you lead, all hosts advise.  

“If we’re not present, engaged, and inclusive, our businesses will feel like dictatorships or authoritative regimes instead of democracies,” shares Van Poole.

When you meet, engage in open communication about the current and future state of the business to give your team the motivation to keep going, especially when times are tough. 

Every morning, Reynolds reminds herself and her team, “The market isn’t going to dictate if we’re going to be successful. It’s going to dictate how we are going to be successful.”

Fail out loud 

“Admittedly, real estate tends to be an ego-driven business,” shares Williams. “Because we thrive on external validation, it can be difficult to be honest about what’s truly going on behind the curtain.”

Not immune to this herself, Williams remembers coming to a personal crossroads onstage at a real estate conference. In the moment, she was caught between speaking candidly about how her team fell apart or staying silent and safe in the attention that accompanies success. Choosing the route of bravery over fear, she decided to share her story. 

“I felt convicted that no one was getting on stages talking about their failures,” she recounts. Despite her initial apprehension, it ended up being the best thing she ever did. ”There are no skeletons in my closet, and I don’t have to hide anything.”

Not only does talking about failures take a weight off your shoulders, but it enables you to profoundly impact the lives of others by giving them an opportunity to learn from your experiences. 

Be human first, leader second

A common refrain from all of the hosts of Empire Building is the importance of vulnerability. In order for your team to bring their whole selves to work, they have to feel safe, connected, and this starts with you. As a leader, you must remove your protective armor and create a place of belonging where everyone has the permission to be vulnerable. Initiate thoughtful conversations about current events, check on the well-being of your team members, validate emotions, and be honest and open about your challenges and fears. If your team doesn’t see you as human first, it’ll be challenging for them to follow you. 

Every day is another opportunity to build team camaraderie and show up as a leader that supports not only in a professional setting, but a personal one as well. 

Prioritize your own well-being

It probably feels like a lifetime ago when you heard a flight attendant utter the phrase, “Place the oxygen mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.” However, the same rings true on the ground. In order to be fully present for your family and your business, it’s important to take care of yourself first. 

Whether it’s waking up early to squeeze in a quick morning workout, carving out time for a date night, or scheduling a weekly coffee or lunch date with a friend, you’ll return a better leader. 

Grab a Seat at the Real Estate Roundtable

Tune in to Empire Building for more leadership lessons and authentic conversations on building a BIG life.

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