Barbara Corcoran Effective leadership qualities

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1 September 2015

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Barbara Corcoran is an American businesswoman, consultant, investor, speaker, author and TV personality. She is the owner of $5 billion business ‘The Corcoran Group’. She is known as one entrepreneur with a real story of ‘rags to riches’. Barbara was born in the year 1949 in Edgewater, New Jersey. She graduated with a degree in Education from St. Thomas Aquinas College in the year 1971. Upon graduation, she got a teaching job which she did for about a year. Barbara was never settled at teaching, so she quit and sought other jobs. However, things did not go as smooth as she had expected, as she had to quit one job after the other. By the time she was 23, she had been in and out of more than 20 jobs. It is her last trial at jobs that would ultimately change her life completely, making her one of the richest women in America.

After trying different odd jobs, Barbara felt that she wanted to become her own boss. So she started a small real estate agency, dealing with brokering entry to vacant houses. However, this transformation needed money which she did not have at that moment. She asked for a loan of $1000. On one trip to see a vacant house with a client, things turned out for the best she had never imagined- the client became interested in buying the property rather than renting it. From the sale, she earned a commission of $3000 for the Corcoran-Simone partnership. This excited her, giving her the idea to transform her business into more than just the letting of vacant houses, to include even property on sale. The business began to grow, and the couple was reaping considerable profits until Barbara’s boyfriend, Simone, decided to quit the partnership after running away with Barbara’s secretary and marrying her. The division ended in 1978, when she immediately founded The Corcoran Group.

When Simone withdrew his shares, he mocked Barbara that she would never make it without him. This particular incident encouraged her even the more to work hard and prove him wrong. Her determination paid, with The Corcoran Group, the first female-owned realty firm in the Big Apple, expanding to a workforce of 7 agents and over $350,000 in revenue in just her first year. Corcoran Group thrived under Barbara’s leadership, thanks in large part to her unique style. By the year 2006 when she decided to sell the company, The Corcoran Group was so big, with a staggering sales force of 850 agents and annual revenue approaching $100 million. It was sold at $66 million to NRT Inc.

I chose Barbara Corcoran because her rise to the top is outstanding, thanks to her exceptional leadership skills. Barbara motivates me to push on despite my humble present- theirs is so much room up there! My vision is to grow into one of the most celebrated leaders of my time, and she fit perfectly as a person who started with nothing and turned every small thing she got into something big.

Her definition of leadership is quite unique. “I never thought of it as leadership, but I knew I wanted to be loved by the people who worked for me,” Corcoran says. “I built the business exactly the way my mother built and ran her family. I wanted a replication of the big, happy family I grew up in. I wanted happy people having fun”, Barbara says ( She believes that leadership is making people feel they belong to the company like it was their family. That is how she enabled others to act, a quality discussed by Kouzes and Posner (2012). Barbara says, “I found out that the more fun I created in the company, the more creative and innovative it became,” she says. “That was the big kahuna–the fun piece. That’s what built that culture upside down and inside out. You got innovation. You got loyalty. You got people who would recruit for you.” ( She effectively encourages the heart (Kouzes and Posner, 2012).

Barbara Corcoran displays many qualities of a good leader. One unique is that she understands the value of other people she works with. Despite being the boss, Barbara respected every worker in her firm and she let them carry out their tasks with a lot of trust and space. As she says, she never knew what the firm’s revenue was, having delegated accounting duties to Esther Kaplan, the first agent she brought in. Secondly, Barbara believes in rewarding workers for their exemplary performance. She personally put colored ribbons on those workers who performed well. Her rewarding quality became even more evident when she eventually rewarded Kaplan’s hard work with a 10 percent commission in the firm, allowing her to cash in when the firm was sold.

Corcoran is a leader who models the way (Kouzes & Posner, 2012). She never sat down and let her agents do all the work. She continued to make sales herself, working very hard. This encouraged her employees to develop a similar determined character. Barbara also exercised her authority very strictly. She gave all new employees a grace period of three months to make a first sale, failure to which they would leave the firm. The fifth leadership quality in Barbara is that she never let her past failure’s pull her down. In high school she scored D’s, but it never bothered her later in life. She was determined to move from one success to the other. Her undying spirit is a clear way of challenging the process (Kouzes & Posner, 2012).

However, it is not all that easy for Barbara; she faces various problems as an investor in the New York realty market. While she is a popular investment consultant in the city, she admits that she has problems advising because other factors come into place. After selling her realty company, she was left with several buildings in the city; these building are her source of income, beside other investments. For instance, the values of properties have plummeted and interest rates have gone down tremendously. This gives her problems in deciding what to tell investor to do, especially because they look upon her success for guidance.


Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2012). The leadership challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Hann, C. (2014). Barbara Corcoran’s Leadership Style: Rainbows and Steel-Toe Boots. Entrepreneur. Retrieved 15 August 2014, from

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