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How Do You Define “Association Leadership”


Know Your Followers

This is not an original thought, but for the first time in my life I am beginning to feel that my peers aren’t listening.  The blogosphere and Realtors have been talking about the increasing divide between the generations. I’ve never really seen it – until now.

I’ve always felt comfortable with the generations before me and indifferent toward those of my own.  However, in this age of social connections, I am finding that more and more my feelings and ideologies aren’t necessarily unique.

I’ve engaged several members and elected Realtor Leaders recently and a common conversation has been problems with agent interaction s well as the need for everyone to follow the same rule book.  (IMHO) The problem is that everyone trying to solve this issue is overlooking the fact that the average agent doesn’t read our newsletters.

A Child Shall Lead Them

I think it’s time that we redefine who is leading our Associations.  Members aren’t reading the e-mails and newsletters; they aren’t running to join the committees and they aren’t using the tools that we’re desperately trying to give them.  Who are the members listening to?  I’m not sure, but there are industry blogs that have thousands of hits a week and we’re starting to see even NAR respond to the members thoughts and ideas in those venues. It’s great that NAR is starting to do a better job of engaging it’s members, I would just like to see it trickle down faster.

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Most Leaders still consider online social venues as a tool of Generation X and Y.  The reality, as I’ve seen it, is that the real influences are those of the Baby Boomer Generation.  These are the real authors with wisdom and insight that only life-experience can give.  There are many from my generations that are arising in the ranks of elected leadership, but I wonder….aren’t those who influence the industry more of a leader than those who are just trying to catch up?  There are some great folks from the Generation X and Y who having amazing skills and are working hard to create a better image of the profession; but frequently their voices are drowned out by mediocrity.

Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence. ~Albert Einstein

It Has Nothing To Do With The Internet

Whereas the internet has given the venue for the voice of the masses; the message has most likely always been there.  There are exceptional agents out there who simply don’t care what others are doing – good or bad.  There are exceptional agents out there who just accept that there are bad agents out there and they simply have to work around them. And then there are exceptional agents who want to be active in really bringing the industry to a higher level.  Only you know who you are – everyone else guesses.  The internet and blogging has little to do with these three groups; but it certainly can bring about more knowledge and better training.

Frequently I hear people say that there are only a small percentage of members involved with blogging (recently I heard 8%).  They use this number to support their lack of involvement or support for blogging Realtors.  I’m curious as to how many agents are involved in Association Leadership.  I would guess it’s less than 8%.  I happen to think that 8% is a large number, if you exclude dual-career agents and those who make less than poverty level.  There are reports that support that only 20% of agents are actually producing.

What’d He Say?

Essentially every leadership training program I’ve taken, has emphasized servant leadership and the strong need to be respected by those you’re leading.  Listening and routinely engaging membership is the way to show those traits.  Otherwise in the void of leadership, that is recognized by the members, you’ll have either a new group of leaders arise or…”Lord of the Flies.”

I have a fear that the chasm of mutual respect that we’re seeing begin, is just going to get far worse.  Leadership needs to be re-defined and members need to be engaged in the venues and techniques they are residing in.  It doesn’t matter if it’s e-mail, newsletters, magazines, blogs or smoke-signals; Realtor Associations posses great resources to engage members in all forums.  The only thing lacking is the desire and initiative to do so.

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Written By

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is



  1. Matt Stigliano

    June 18, 2009 at 1:16 am

    Matthew – I think you hit on a strong point that I have come across many times.

    Members aren’t reading the e-mails and newsletters; they aren’t running to join the committees and they aren’t using the tools that we’re desperately trying to give them. Who are the members listening to?

    Maybe I’m just a nerd for liking to read (even the more poorly written publications and emails get some attention), but I find a disturbing disregard for the information presented to us (and I’m speaking locally here). We get several different emails from local to state to national. We get several publications as well (one of which is from the Texas A&M Real Estate Center – which is like über-geekdom of real estate, a Texas think-tank of Realtor®-ology). Not to mention the blogs that I read and am involved in. When I talk to some of my peers, I find they just don’t care. Remember the original Mortgagee Letter 9-15…nothing. “Oh yeah, I thought I heard something about that.” Google is a scraper? Don’t even try, most of them just pay the fee to a broker for a canned website that few are looking at and leave it at that.

    Without figuring out why they don’t care, I don’t think it matters what medium they deliver it through.

  2. Missy Caulk

    June 18, 2009 at 2:22 am

    Matt, you know I am extremely involved in my association. We track who opens the emails, postcards, and newsletter.

    More open the short postcard type messages, time? I don’t know.

    You learn a lot by being involved on committees, you meet agents and calibrate with them when you are not negotiating a transaction.

    I’ve tried recruiting for committees, and for folks to start blogging. The same one’s volunteer over and over again.

    Very few of the top agents are involved in my board, they are just out selling. Very few top agents are blogging and doing social media, but they are out selling.

  3. Paula Henry

    June 18, 2009 at 3:12 am

    Matthew – I believe there is a great divide among the leadership and the agents on the street. Not because I have recently had a difference of opinion with my own board, but more so, because the leadership tends to think one dimensional – their way or the highway. I can say it’s not the same everywhere – I have worked in other states with four different boards and the lack of vision is much different here.

    When I first became an agent – I got through my first six months, sold three million and realized I didn’t know what the he** I was doing. I took the GRI courses and the ABR, mainly for the knowledge. I did both in three months by going to several different boards from Orange County to Riverside to San Diego. The local boards were different back then

    Back then, website providers were just starting to make their rounds at offices and selling individual sites. I believe the internet has changed the face of the Realtor and those who are committed to serve. If I had to say why, it would be some move forward, while others stay in the past – the rest get caught in the middle with no direction.

    BTW – I open and read all my board email.

  4. Thomas Johnson

    June 18, 2009 at 4:27 am

    Association leadership is the folks who get health insurance paid for on my dime but can’t figure out how to turn a million members into a group plan. It’s late I’ll just stop there.

  5. Joe Loomer

    June 18, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    I’m in Paula’s situation – an archaic board comprised primarily of members from the two large traditional firms who believe they have a lock on our “small” town of a half a million. It is indeed their way or the highway. I could blabber on for several paragraphs providing examples of how arbitration sided with agents from these firms in situations that really merited additional criminal charges. But that’s not what this post was about.

    We push social media, blogging, and the need to be aware of what’s going on with our local boards incessantly. As the only larger firm in our area that’s actually growing, we will have that presence on the board in the future. We are going to change it from within, they are finished but they just don’t know it yet.

    To me this all seems a simple matter of equilibrium. It isn’t supposed to be touchy-feely, it is survival of the strongest. Life is not fair. We can continue to push the tech side of agency, but the one’s that don’t want to participate or believe that their company page is actually a website are simply not going to be in the business long enough for me to worry about them.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  6. Matt Stigliano

    June 19, 2009 at 1:27 am

    Missy – I witnessed first hand today my board making some moves to get more connected with their membership. Will it work? I don’t know. They apparently have found that mail from brokers gets read more often than the board, so they’re going to try a new way to deliver the way, so it looks like it’s from your broker. I think once the “broker” starts sending mail those same people will stop reading. Email’s a tough one. I think one of the major issues is quality content. My boards email aren’t very interesting I have to say. I scan them. I do read quite a lot from the state and national levels though.

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