Great credit union leaders enable others to act

I’ve had a chance to work with a number of amazing credit union leaders, great leaders who know how to foster an ideal environment for collaboration, innovation, risk-taking, and action. I believe their success is built on their ability to create a very high level of trust, and because of that trust, I felt comfortable taking the right amount of risk, and was willing to stick my neck out for them. I tried new things, stretched, grew, and together we hit more home runs. Some of my greatest accomplishments occurred while working with these great leaders. Give me someone I can trust along with a noble vision, and I will follow them almost anywhere. These special leaders deserve (and earn) our very best effort. You always know where you stand – nothing unspoken, no innuendo. Succeed or fail, you know they have your back.

These great leaders treat individuals with respect and dignity. They value the uniqueness of each member of their team. Even when they disagree with an idea or outcome, they always respond with dignity and respect. I never wanted to let leaders like these down. I always wanted to give them my very best. They strengthen others, making each person feel capable and powerful.

The bottom line is that working in an environment of trust, respect, and dignity enables individuals and teams to act boldly. Bold action has always been important, but given the environment we are working in, bold action has never been more important than it is today.

Why is it so important to boldly act?

Consistent, bold action is required if we are to survive and thrive in the rapidly evolving environment we find ourselves in. Today’s credit union leaders can’t help but consider current trends and environmental reviews such as CUES Scenarios through 2020 or Filenes Trending: Credit Unions in 2025 and feel a sense of urgency.

New technology, changing demographics, and emerging competitors are driving our need to adapt and change. Some of the changes required will be small, but many will be huge, and will require great leadership and inspired teams with the right skill sets that have been enabled to act boldly. Truly, the greatest risk credit unions can take right now is to NOT take any risks.

Where are the great leaders?

First, having spent time with hundreds of credit union leaders just this year, I can tell you there are many good leaders out there who are up for the challenge. Unfortunately, I can also say that there are a number of credit unions who lack capable leadership, and even some who are stuck with toxic leaders. If you grow with talented, capable leaders, you die with toxic leaders. Fortunately, there are inspiring thought leaders and leadership programs in place to help develop and strengthen bold leadership.

Recently, I was fortunate to share a Strategic Advancement presentation at the Connecticut Credit Union Management Program. The leadership program is a two-year program of the Credit Union League of Connecticut designed for rising leaders seeking well-rounded credit union knowledge and development. The lessons and experiences gained from the program will broaden their experience and prepare them for future leadership opportunities. I was very impressed with the large group of leaders; their input and enthusiasm made the day. In particular, I was very impressed with the message their leader, League CEO/President Jill Nowacki, had for the group. Two strong messages really. The first was non-verbal. Jill facilitated the event and spent the entire day with the group. Her presence and involvement speaks volumes about the value she places on the individuals in this group. Second, Jill shared personal leadership challenges she has faced and how she was able to overcome them. Jill’s humble examples speak volumes about the value she places on the members of the leadership team. Truly, this is leadership that will enable (and inspire) others to act.

Looking for inspiration and leadership tools? Look to the leadership thought leaders in our midst. One of my favorites is Matt Monge at the Mojo Company. Matt gets it! He is bold and unapologetic in his approach to servant leadership and his focus on building a culture founded on trust. In my experience both are the ingredients needed to enable others to act.

Why it matters

Strong credit union leaders with the ability to enable others to boldly act will spread their influence far beyond their office, organization, or community. They will win. Leaders with an inspiring vision, leading in a culture built on trust, will inspire their teams to reflect the vision and act to make it a reality. These effective leaders will build teams that are not afraid to boldly act in the credit unions, members’ and community’s best interests.

No one can do it alone. It will be those leaders with the ability to enable others to act that will not only survive, but thrive tomorrow and ensure the legacy of their credit unions. The others will always be relegated to a long list of mediocre impact.