Monday 16 September 2019

Paul McNeive: 'Leadership a challenge even at the best of times'

The right moves

Paul McNeive
Paul McNeive

Paul McNeive

There is much talk of leadership these days, particularly in politics and sport, and it reminds me of the myriad of challenges that face leaders of professional firms and, indeed, leaders of departments within firms. Estate agency is particularly complex in that not only are leaders responsible for their own staff and their clients, but they are also responsible to the public, through dealing with large numbers of enquirers, viewers, and bidders. In this, the leader must set the standards.

What are the qualities needed by a leader? Even that question provokes debate. For example, who do you think has the best leadership qualities: Theresa May or Mick McCarthy? Leo Varadkar or Joe Schmidt?

Different leaders have different personalities, which make them more suitable for certain roles at certain times. It's interesting to look at the leadership of the largest Irish estate agents, where, possibly influenced by ownership by overseas brands, there is perhaps more emphasis on 'a safe pair of hands' than the strong 'personality' type leaders of 20 years ago.

Times change, but some might say the business is less interesting without characters like the late Fintan Gunne, Hugh Hamilton, John Finnegan and others of that era. That said, today's leaders are not only experts in their area, but they tend to be amongst the best of their peers at dealing with people.

And several of today's leaders also have yet another audience to keep happy - the overseas owner!

So your choice of leader, in and of itself, sends a message to your audiences about the values and personality of the firm.

And leaders must be aware of the signals that they themselves are sending to staff and clients. You must understand your own strengths and weaknesses, which is easier said than done. Large firms will probably carry out personality profiling and staff surveys, but if that's not providing the answers then you should have an experienced mentor, or a trusted colleague, who will 'tell it like it is'.

Leaders tend to be chosen from those who have excelled in their own areas (usually big fee earners) and who have shown an ability to win business. The first shock to the leader will be the realisation that most of their skills will be of no help in the most challenging part of the job, which is dealing with the results of human interaction, between colleagues, and between staff and clients.

The leader's strengths and values can inspire people and set the tone for an organisation. Isn't it interesting that Theresa May, who seems devoid of charisma, is actually winning people over through her extraordinary tenacity? Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, who has bundles of charisma, no longer inspires the confidence that he once did.

The best leaders inspire those around them to higher performance. You lead by example. Praise frequently and publicly - it energises those around you and, when you have to find fault, it is more likely to be taken as reasonable and balanced.

Leadership can be a rewarding role, but it is also a challenging, and sometimes lonely one. And from experience and observation, it is easier to lead a firm in a downturn than in a rising market like today's. So why not give your boss a rare word of thanks and appreciation, and watch them redouble their efforts?

Surveyors welcome Cork's growth

In another sign of the strengthening market in the regions, over 200 people attended the SCSI Southern Region Annual Dinner last Friday in Cork, where I was delighted to be the after-dinner speaker.

SCSI President Des O'Broin addressed the audience, and the chairman of the southern region, TJ Cronin, strongly welcomed the expansion of the Cork City boundary which will see the city's population grow from 120,000 to 210,000. Cronin said this was a fantastic opportunity for Cork City Council and Cork County Council to market the Cork region as a location for inward investment.

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