An Example of Servant Leadership

Diane and Melanie KW Austin
Diane Johnson, Melanie Kennemann, and Jim Kennedy/Photo courtesy of Melanie Kennemann

This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post on September 7, 2016.

My family moved to Austin, Texas four years ago to take advantage of educational opportunities for my special needs daughter.  Although I continued to commute back to the Washington, DC area for work, I knew that at some point, I would need to be in Austin on a full-time basis.  I wanted to transition to a career that would give me the flexibility to be a fully involved parent as well as the opportunity to chart my own path.

After looking around at various opportunities, I began to look at Keller Williams (KW) not only because of the status as a leading employer in the Austin real estate industry but also because of its reputation for integrity.  I met with Diane Johnson, one of the co-team leaders for the local Keller Williams Office in Austin, to see if KW would be a good fit.  What immediately impressed me about Diane was that she asked me about my life, my goals, and my expectations before saying anything about KW.  Once she had an idea of where I was headed, she explained the KW model and how I could use it to get where I wanted to go.  Based on this one meeting, even before my follow-on research, I knew that KW was the place for me.

I must admit that my start with the company was rocky but it was the culture that kept me going.  I occasionally met with Diane and Melanie Kennermann, the other co-team leader for the office, in an effort to improve my business as well as to find my own way.  After one meeting, Melanie encouraged me to continue to be coachable, but also to be true to who I was.   They both assured me that they supported me 100%.  After taking advantage of additional training opportunities as well as speaking to other agents, I found that by combining my love for leadership development and mentoring with my love of writing, I could build a great business with KW while also having the life that I wanted to lead.  Through hard work and dedication, I was able to transition to KW on a full-time basis.

I appreciated their leadership during my time of transition and jumped at the opportunity to sit down with Diane and Melanie to talk about their views on leadership.  They are two of the most successful team leaders with Keller Williams.  Both joined Keller Williams in other locations (Diane in Nashville in 2002 and Melanie in Reno/Lake Tahoe in 2006) and within six months were named as Team Leaders in their respective offices.  Since coming to Austin as co-team leaders (2010 for Diane and 2011 for Melanie), they have continued their success by doubling the size and revenue of the office.

I asked Diane and Melanie about their core leadership philosophy.  It’s simple, they said.  “Servant Leadership.  That’s why people trust us.” During our meeting, they focused on five areas that are the keys to their success:

Think of Others First

Before recruiting new talent, it is important to build relationships with those who are already in place.  Diane likes to say “People won’t care why you are here until they know that you care.”  Melanie agrees and says “We teach people how to think bigger and to break through their limiting beliefs.”  Once they established a reputation in Austin for helping Agents grow their businesses, it became easier to attract new talent.

Create Your Own Story

When Diane and Melanie joined KW, they saw an opportunity to create their own destiny.  After coming to Austin, both are quick to say that while they are very fortunate to have close access to great leadership from the Keller Williams corporate office (Keller Williams Realty International), it was important for them to create their own story.  They needed to establish a vision for where they wanted to lead the office and then make sure that they had the right people in the right roles to accomplish the goal.

Be A Life Long Learner

Diane likes to say that “Modeling the right behavior, models, and systems make you valid in the Agent’s eyes.”  In order to do that, you have to know the tools, models, and systems that are available to help them.  Melanie likes to say that “I am always looking to improve myself.”  As leaders, that is what they look for in others as well.  Melanie goes on to say, “The market is always changing and if you are stagnant, the world will pass you by.”

Be Accountable

Diane and Melanie set targets and hold themselves accountable.  Both are quick to credit the entire KW Austin Market center Team for helping them accomplish their goals.  They both realized long ago that the best way to lead a team is not by being demanding but by letting people lead themselves.  As Diane says, “We have the responsibility to make sure that we have the right people who are in the right seats on the bus.”

Be Resilient

Every day is not going to be a great day.  There will be setbacks.  The key is to be resilient.  Diane says “I practice failing forward every day.  We are lucky to be inspired by our leadership team who continues to teach us how to run our businesses as well as opening themselves up to be transparent about their successes and failures.”

Diane and Melanie are great examples of servant leaders.  They are quick to say that the secret to their success has and always will be to serve others.  As Melanie likes to say, “The more people that you help, the more people will help you.”

The author is a licensed realtor with Keller Williams Realty in Austin, Texas.  For more information about a career with Keller Williams, click here.

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