Face it. Your job is not about real estate. You are in a people business, and your success as a multifamily executive is measured by the performance of the people you manage and how they, in turn, successfully interact with the people who have lived, currently live, or eventually want to live in one of your assets. Without your people serving those people, you are nothing. Without a strategic plan in place to empower your people toward the success that will make or break your professional existence, you are even less than nothing. You are a user, and nobody likes a user. This is a people business, and ultimately, you'll want to be liked.

Consider Jeff Brodsky, the president of Related Management and executive vice president of Related Affordable, two key divisions at New York City-based Related Cos. Brodsky is on the board of directors of the National Housing Conference, a member of the residential committee of the Real Estate Board of New York, and chairman of the property management committee of the National Multi Housing Council. He joined Related after receiving his MBA in 1982 and has never known another employer, so he understands his corporate role with complete clarity. "I don't collect the rent; I don't clean the apartments; and I don't lease anything," he says. "So if my success is going to be based on the people that do, my job is to find out exactly what they need. Constantly. Everyday."

Then there's Steve Winsby, who just joined Seattle-based Pinnacle, an American Management Services Company, as vice president of the company's Southern California region. Winsby comes to Pinnacle after seven years at Simpson Housing, and he's held executive positions at Trammell Crow and BRE in addition to serving as COO of Holland Residential. A self-described lover of change, Winsby says he nonetheless sees a constant at every stop in his career: the opportunity to demonstrate the idea of leadership as a dynamic, relational process between management and staff . "The majority of our jobs do not concern real estate," he says. "They concern spending time with clients, colleagues, and direct reports. Leadership is a success that is essentially measured by your ability to bring people together."

Two different leaders, two divergently different career paths in the multifamily industry, but just one conclusion: Great corporate leaders fundamentally triumph via the selfless empowerment of their staffs. It's not a particularly new message, but it's one that does not necessarily rise to the surface in an industry as image- and ego-dependent as real estate. In leaner times as well, the ability to entrust core responsibilities and decision-making to your team and then drive them to success can be a daunting prospect. Especially compared to doing it the old-fashioned way, which is to say doing it yourself. For you?because it is easier or because you think the results will be better.

That brings me back to wanting to be liked. Leadership isn't necessarily about being a nice guy, but it is about being there for your team, with resources, ideas, recognition, and acknowledgment. It's about having their back instead of riding on it . "I'm nobody's buddy, but I'm not a hard ass, either," Winsby says. "I'm genuine, direct, and thorough. I'm very passionate about what I do, but I'm not emotional. Most of all, I am a listener."

Perhaps leadership is ultimately an act of selflessness, a process of listening, of tuning in to your team and providing them with the corporate assets they are yearning for. They are out there, right now. They are waiting for you to assist them in doing the right thing. They are waiting for a leader. Constantly. Everyday.