What is the Difference Between Talent, Leaders, and Empire Builders?

Last week I had the privilege of teaching a business and leadership course with Kristan Cole, VP of KW Mega Agent Expansion. Yes, the class outlined how to take your local real estate business and expand it into another market, city, or state, but the course was much more than that. It was about building a business, not just a real estate sales team. It was about creating the best systems and models in your current location so that you can duplicate your success wherever you go (no matter what industry you’re in). And most importantly, the class was about people. Without people you do not own a business, you have a job. Without people you will experience marginal gains instead of geometric growth. Find your people. The best people.


First WHO, then WHAT. People drive your organization. Get into business with the best people on the planet and then figure out what they are going to do. Here’s a little secret for you. If you hire the best WHO, then they will figure it out for you!

There’s a lot of jargon out there about talent. We should all be searching for talent and hire talent for our organization, right? Right. No-brainer. But it’s a little more complicated than that. There are three tiers of talent, if you will – talent, leaders, and empire builders. All are valuable to bring into your organization. But what’s the difference between the three?


Talent is someone who has natural aptitude or skill at something. This could be your listing specialist who just crushes it by securing listings, providing an awesome client experience, and generates massive referrals. This could be your personal assistant who never lets a detail of your day go missing. Or the IT professional at your office who never met a virus he couldn’t handle. These people are exceptional at what they do; the very best in the business in their role. Talent, for the most part, will follow the rules and systems of an organization or industry. You want these people in your organization – get them on board and see what they can do. Some will thrive in their role and never want to leave and others will start itching to get out of the role and into leadership. Watch your talent closely and see who starts naturally leading those around him/her without a title.


Some people are born leaders. Others can develop the skill with enough time on task over time. Leaders are your Lead Buyer Specialists, your Chief Operations Officers, your Principals, your police chiefs, your CFOs. They usually operate at a very high level within an established system where they are leading other people and managing systems. Leaders will often be intraprenuers and will implement. They will constantly be thinking about ways to improve the team and organization. They have a thirst to grow daily and at times leaders can can look like empire builders. Keep an eye on the mavericks – these may very well be your empire builders.


Empire builders are leaders, but not all leaders are empire builders. Empire builders break shit. They wake up every day and ask how they can disrupt the organization, their industry and the world. They don’t really care what people think and they let their actions show who they are. Empire builders will not allow the fear of the unknown stop them. The key difference between empire builders and leaders is that empire builders will hire other empire builders. They will not be afraid of hiring people bigger and better than them. In fact, they will understand that in order to grow and for the the company to grow, they can’t afford NOT to hire the biggest, baddest people in the world. Empire builders are the individuals who you will hire to lead a company for you, when you don’t even know what that company will do or look like yet. First WHO, then what, remember?

So which one are you? All are necessary to build massive organizations. First understand who you are and then who you need to bring into your world to achieve you goals.



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