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Updated 29 Sep 2020

Lew Geffen: Those who lead, teach

One of the signs of being a really great leader is being a great teacher, believes Lew Geffen, founder and CEO of one of South Africa’s largest real estate agencies, Lew Geffen Sotherby. 

20 February 2014  Share  0 comments  Print

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Ask Lew Geffen, founder and CEO of one of South Africa’s largest real estate agencies, Lew Geffen Sotherby’s, what he’s learnt about being a great leader, it’s that he’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves and teach.

This ability is a hallmark in many great entrepreneurs and if you plan to, or are in the process of growing your business, you’re the one that should be identifying and training talent in your business.

“I started at the very bottom of the food chain in the real estate business,” says Lew. From there, I’ve worked my way to the very top.” While that in itself is an inspiring story, working from the bottom up has imparted many valuable lessons that he’s now able to pass on to his staff.

“I know every aspect of the business and when my staff ask for advice I’m able to give it from my own experience.”

Don’t let talent fly under the radar

Look out for staff who are consistently performing beyond expectation. These are the kind of staff who  are ambitious and looking to grow into more senior roles. Failure to identify these individuals can actually put your business back when they leave for greener pasture growth opportunities.

Always be excited to help your staff grow and develop new skills. Find out more about every employees career goals to get a better understanding on how to help them get there. If your admin person has a knack for dealing with people and shows interest in moving into sales, help them hone their persuasion skills.

Leaders create leaders

It’s all well and good assisting employees upskill into better positions, but if you’re still shackled to the steering wheel, you’re not developing your staff into leaders in their own right. A successful and sustainable business is one that you can take your hands off completely and enjoy a three month holiday in France.

Are you training your staff to lead their own teams? Challenge your protégés to take on leadership responsibilities like mentoring new employees, leading meetings and spearheading projects. Be an example to your staff by identifying under-developed talent and polishing them to a high shine.

New tricks

Ambitious staff who are left unstimulated soon start looking for it elsewhere. While it’s important to encourage staff to become subject experts, ensure they also diversify their skills. The reason is two-fold. Being singularly focused may render them irreplaceable, but it also means there’s a host of other skills that are being neglected.

At the end of the day, excellent managers are well-rounded individuals. Be an example to your company by continually adding to your skill set. We’re not talking learning Mandarin for the sake of it, but adding value-adding skills to your leadership suite.

The essence of leadership is accountability

One of the biggest lessons Lew Geffen learnt was that there’s a fine balance to be struck between holding star staff accountable versus leaving them to their own devices.

“My company was running a little heavy on expenses and HR had revealed agents were using a lot of paper, recommending agents get charged per ream.  We rolled out the system and I lost five or six top agents all in one go. The moral of the story is that if key players are performing, don’t nitpick.”

This is very true, but it doesn’t mean star employees shouldn’t be held accountable for things that could be improved upon. Continue pushing them to give their best and don’t allow them to become complacent. 

Be an example to your staff by making it known what areas you want to improve upon in your life and invite employees to hold you accountable.

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