Having courage is vital to good leadership, says Bess Freedman, Chief Executive Officer of Brown Harris Stevens, a luxury real estate brokerage based in New York.
Speaking on the ProQuo Provokes podcast, she says: “Courage is for me the most important quality in leadership, because from there you can have integrity and ethics and do the right thing. You're willing to stand for something, regardless if people like you or think it's popular, or if it dilutes your power. You are saying I care about this, this is right, I'm going to do it and I don't care what anybody else thinks. Being able to do that is a special quality and I really admire it.”
Bess says it's also important to hire leaders into the business who display courage, saying: “It matters to hire people who have that sort of conviction and willingness to do things, otherwise you're going to see a lot of people managing from fear.”
This firm belief in the importance of doing the right thing is shown in the way that Bess leads her team at Brown Harris Stevens, which recently gave all of its employees the day off so that they could vote in the US presidential elections.
She says: “We care a lot about how we do things. It's not just what we achieve. What distinguishes us from a lot of our competitors is we really focus on how we achieve our goals. And that shows up in our culture. We try to do things the right way. The right thing to do doesn't always make the most money, but it's the right thing to do.”
Bess joined Brown Harris Stevens in 2013 to foster business development and was promoted to Co-President soon afterwards, becoming the company’s first CEO in 2018. Prior to joining the firm she was Senior Managing Director at the Corcoran Group's East Side headquarters.
Brown Harris Stevens was started up in 1873 and has offices in New Jersey, Connecticut and Florida in addition to its head office in Manhattan. It has built a reputation for providing a high quality, luxury service for its high net worth clients.
Bess says: “We stand for something, we're a company with a conscience and it's really a great place to be. We're not willing to cheat to get to where we want to be. It may take us a little longer, but we'll be proud of the experience as we go along. And that inspires me every day. I love coming to work and being a part of something that matters, and not everybody can say that.”
This focus on doing things the right way is reflected in the reputation of the company’s brand, which is built on trust and making clients feel at ease. Bess explains: “I always say that your reputation arrives before you, it's what people know. If you do something bad, it shows up. And I think that Brown Harris Stevens’ culture and brand has shown up in a really special way, in that people trust us and they rely on us.”
Bess says that for her, good leadership is about focusing on the playing field rather than on the score board. She explains: “It's not about a commission or getting as much money as you can. It's really about taking care of people and doing the right thing. I feel that when you do that, all the right things happen.”