Why Authenticity Is Critical For Leaders In Real Estate

At a recent lunch with Liz Peace, hot on the heels of Carillion’s collapse, the topic turned to authenticity, and the loss of trust in real estate leaders. From a property perspective as the ex BPF Chief Executive, Liz felt that real estate has a long way to go to win it back – especially if recent events at Haringey and Earl’s Court are added to Carillion.

As I walked back to the office, I started thinking about trust and leadership, and why some execs command it, yet others never quite manage to. ‘Trustworthy’ isn’t ever really used in conjunction with leadership, but authenticity is – and to me, authentic leaders are implicitly trustworthy.

In real estate and beyond, authentic leaders stand out a mile. They manifest trust, honesty, conviction and purpose. But there’s more to it than that, so I thought I’d jot down my thoughts on how I see these qualities applying to our leaders in the built environment.

Authentic leaders are natural Ieaders, and stand out a mile. They’re the visionaries that people want to follow. We all know leadership means sticking to your vision with authenticity, and making sure everyone in your organisation gets on board – even if not openly embracing it.

Let’s face it, management teams rarely do well at strategy. Vision and strategy sit with CEOs for this very reason. Everything a CEO does should underpin moving the company towards this vision in an authentic, transparent and consistent manner. This inspires trust.

When others do not believe in the CEO’s vision – deviating from the agreed strategy – short cuts and cracks will inevitably appear. Grenfell is a (tragic) case in point. This is what happens when the strategic buck gets passed.

The truth is a powerful thing when the emotions delivering it are held in control. Honesty and directness are proven to increase trust. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but de-personalising difficult conversations with facts doesn’t hurt as much as we expect it will.

The thing about authenticity is that it spreads: leaders who are truthful and trustworthy hire others who are too, who hire others in the same guise and so on and so on. Eventually, it becomes part of the culture, because authentic leaders know that unless they walk the walk with complete conviction, their people won’t either.

Carillion’s collapse was preventable. It didn’t need to happen. But when a mistake has been made that impacts us all on that scale, the fundamentals of authenticity are evident when a leader gives a “full and complete, total – no question in my mind” apology. Only from there, can tomorrow be a better place.