Celebrating Women In Leadership At Houwzer

Did you know that 64% of all Realtors are women? They are dominating this industry and continue to do so. In the spirit of women supporting one another, cheering each other on, and in celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we asked female leaders across the Houwzer landscape to share some career advice for women in business.

How do you define your leadership?

“I’d say my leadership style is somewhat unconventional in the sense that I want those I lead to not just look at me as their ‘boss,’ but as someone who genuinely cares about their wellbeing both professionally and personally. An open line of communication is the biggest part of my leadership style. My team knows they can come to me with any challenge or obstacle they are facing, no matter how big or small, and we will work through it together.” Kim Unger, Client Care Manager 

“I lead by example and would never ask any of my Sales Managers or Agents to do something that I haven’t done before. I am continually trying to find ways to improve our process and guide our agents to win listings and give the best possible service to our clients.” Trish Gesswein, Director of Listing Sales 

“My leadership style is not focused on ‘being in charge’ but more about inspiring and empowering my team to fulfill their roles and also to explore ideas they find exciting inside and outside of Houwzer.” Samantha Taylor, Sales Operations Manager

“My mantra for leadership has always been to ‘lead by example.’ I never want to ask someone to do a task that I wouldn’t be willing or able to do myself. By modeling the attributes and skills I believe are the foundations for success, I can show others how to lead rather than telling them.” Melissa Gingrich, Chief Financial Officer 

“Servant- My team knows and trusts that they can always call on me for whatever they need. Brainstorming and Strategizing are two of our core strengths.” Pamela Debnam, Regional Sales Manager for DC, MD, VA.

How has your leadership changed over the years?

“When I was first promoted to a leadership position, I was heavily reliant on copying the leadership styles I have seen and been exposed to because I didn’t know much else. Over the course of my leadership, I have created a leadership style all my own by finding what works best for my relationships with each of my employees, individually. Leadership is not a one size fits all journey.” Kim Unger, Client Care Manager

“Previously I equated being a leader with ‘perfection.’ Doing everything. Knowing every detail. Being in charge. Never making mistakes. In my career, my perspective has changed. I’ve found that my version of the ‘perfect’ leader is unattainable. Real leadership doesn’t require you to be perfect, be a genius, or do every single thing. Through mentorship, volunteering, and my current position I’ve learned that leadership is completely different. ‘Real’ leaders don’t know everything, recognize that, and aren’t embarrassed to ask questions. Real leaders don’t try to micro-manage and control every aspect of a project, they surround themselves with a team they trust and lean on them when required (for work/advice/insight/etc). Leaders fail and learn from those failures. Leaders make mistakes and own them.” Samantha Taylor, Sales Operations Manager

“My leadership style has evolved over the years as my confidence has grown. Earlier in my career, I was almost crippled by imposter syndrome and focusing on whether or not I ‘deserved’ my seat at the table. That’s something a lot of women combat and is truly a limiting factor in our upside potential. We all perform best when we perform from a position of confidence. As my confidence has grown, I have become much more comfortable in my own decision-making process and also with empowering my teams to make their own decisions and learn by making mistakes.”  Melissa Gingrich, Chief Financial Officer 

“As a young manager, I felt the need to have all of the answers. Over the years, I’ve learned to draw the answers out of others by engaging them in the process. Not only does it lead to breakthrough moments for the individual and team but also strengthens trust, innovation, and accountability between leader and team.” Suzanne Garber, CEO of Houwzer’s RiseUp Fund

“Learning more patience and being able to see both sides of the coin has not only made me a stronger leader, but also a mentor and servant to my team.” Pamela Debnam, Regional Sales Manager for DC, MD, VA

Can you share a story that demonstrates a key learning for you in your leadership journey?

“Early in my career, I was in a management training program and highly competitive. I made a careless error in a pricing contract and was devastated by the revelation by my boss. Thinking I would be severely reprimanded, I was shocked to hear him extend grace to me. “What? You don’t make mistakes? I do.” We are usually the hardest on ourselves and having a leader acknowledge and forgive my mistake led me to never repeat that error again while endearing me to give my all for that leader every day. I learned from Joe Alvarez that empathy along with accountability goes a long way toward building a team of talented, committed, and results-oriented professionals.” Suzanne Garber, CEO of Houwzer’s RiseUp Fund

Who is the most influential woman you know and why?

“Every woman whom I’ve had the pleasure of calling my boss, because they all paved the way for me to be able to be in a leadership position as well as encouraged me to believe I was capable of being in a leadership position.” Kim Unger, Client Care Manager

“My Mother. She is more together than anyone I know and taught me a great work ethic and that I can achieve anything that I put my mind to.” Trish Gesswein, Director of Listing Sales

“My great grandmother was a Senior Cook at MLK Elementary School in the 1970s. (This is back when cafeteria ladies actually cooked real meals and everything wasn’t frozen!) Every day she saw kids coming to school, looking hungry and unprepared. Teachers were constantly talking about them misbehaving. She realized there was no way students could come to school, ready to learn on an empty stomach. So she started buying the food and making free breakfast for students. Eventually, it became so popular that teachers (who are also underpaid and overworked) started to partake as well.

As the program grew, administrators took note and realized this breakfast program was incredibly impactful. Students were excited to come to school. They were coming to school on time. They were prepared to learn. And grades were improving. Because of the tangible improvements, the program became officially sanctioned by the county and was expanded to all the local schools. Her program blossomed into one of the largest free breakfast programs, fed thousands of students, and provided the modeling for many large cities to duplicate.” Samantha Taylor, Sales Operations Manager

“I am inspired on a daily basis by all the beautiful things that women accomplish. We are so many things all at the same time and I am constantly in awe of our strength.” Melissa Gingrich, Chief Financial Officer

“Marilyn Thomas was a trailblazer at FedEx. She closed the largest deal in FedEx history with the US federal government and oversaw all of the intricacies of multiple agencies and departments with a direct team of hundreds and an indirect team of tens of thousands. One of her mottos was, ‘In the highway of life, you gotta keep moving or pull over, otherwise, you’ll get run over.”‘It’s true for anyone unsure of what to do next – think of those three options: keep moving, pull over or get run over!” Suzanne Garber, CEO of Houwzer’s RiseUp Fund

What have you learned about yourself as a leader?

“Investing in myself with continuing education has allowed me to confidently and wisely lead our company through people’s challenges over the years, but has also allowed me to grow as a person.” Krystal Eason, Vice President of People