Sometimes leaders succeed in spite of incredible odds stacked against them. Usually they’re successful because they demonstrate extraordinary leadership.
Here are a few examples:
Good leaders “lead from the front.” That doesn’t mean leading every charge in the military or making every decision in a business. It means leading by example—communicating your standards, values, and objectives to staff, and then insisting they live up to those standards.
Strong leadership is as necessary for success in your credit union as it is in the military or the world of big business. Great military leaders start out at the lowest commissioned rank or sometimes as privates. Sam Walton started with one store, and Ray Kroc started as a salesman of milkshake mixers. But all great leaders have innate leadership skills and a commitment to succeed.
In your credit union, you measure success in many ways—asset and membership growth, bottom-line results, good examinations and audits, and member satisfaction. Common obstacles to reaching success are negative economic trends, unemployment, shrinking interest margins, increasing loan losses, and a heavy compliance burden.
These common performance standards and obstacles are very real and vary in degree from one credit union to another. How well your credit union deals with these issues is largely dependent on the caliber of leadership displayed and the gravity of your organization’s challenges.
Good leadership doesn’t always result in success. Sometimes the odds are just too lopsided to overcome. But a great leader will always accomplish much more and last much longer than a poor one.
Leading by example is critical to success. A credit union leader who demands a high level of service and courtesy for members, for example, must treat his or her employees with courtesy and respect and demand that all staff do the same.
If cutting costs and striving for high productivity are major goals, then leaders must be thrifty and productive.
A job title near the top of an organizational chart commands overt respect from subordinates. But genuine respect must be earned over time, by consistently demonstrating the virtues and standards expected from subordinates.
The quality of performance delivered by people who truly respect, and in some cases admire, their leaders is significantly greater than that of people who perform out of fear of consequences. And when times are tough, that edge can be the difference between success and failure.
JOHN FRANKLIN is CUNA’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. Contact him at 608-231-4266.