Credit unions- Invest in your emerging leaders!

2018 has been a remarkable year, one that I will never forget. I’ve personally visited 49 credit unions and participated in 17 conference/educational events this year. I’ve learned a lot from very diverse credit union cultures, and been exposed to a wide-range of missions, visions and strategies. I’ve spent time with inspiring credit union leaders and participated with humble hands on service projects. In a year packed with so many great experiences, there’s one consistent experience that rises to the top and has left the greatest impression – respect and admiration for the many impressive emerging younger leaders.

Leaders worthy of a great movement

Speaking on credit unions, Edward Filene said, “It is a great movement, worthy of great deeds, deserving of great loyalty.” He was right then, and his comments ring true now. This year, my interactions with so many young credit union leaders convinced me that we have the right emerging leaders who are prepared (and preparing) to accomplish many great deeds to ensure the future of our movement.

These younger leaders are energized, and exhibit the right balance of philosophy and business acumen needed to lead a human-focused financial cooperative movement. They are bright and community-focused, and they’re not only convinced they can make the world a better place – they are investing blood, sweat and tears to make it a reality. I’ve seen them in action at many different levels ranging from intense strategic planning to selfless acts of service, such as feeding the homeless (2018 CUDE Workshop). They are collaborative, competitive and willing (anxious, even) to take the right risks to break up the status quo. I’m impressed, and I have to say that in my 35 years of credit union service, this group demonstrates the greatest potential yet, and they are worthy of our attention, support, development and mentorship. I’m very optimistic they will elevate the credit union movement to a higher, more purpose-focused and relevant level.

Invest in tomorrow’s leaders

There are lots of quality leadership development opportunities in the credit union space, such as the Northwest Credit Union Association’s (NWCUA) Emerging Leaders Program, the Credit Union League of CT’s Connecticut CU Executive Program, local chapter groups (yes, they still exist) and wow – you should visit the Mt. Hood CU Chapter in the Portland, Oregon area. It’s a collective “dream team” of emerging younger leaders. And of course, the Cooperative Trust’s wildly successful Crashers program. Examples like these and others create great learning opportunities and experiences that prepare younger leaders for the challenges and opportunities they will face. I always recommend CUNA’s Management School, the National Credit Union Foundation’s Credit Union Development Educators (CUDE) program, and WOCCU’s Young Credit Union Professionals program to eager-to-learn and growing professionals.

There are so many opportunities. Mentoring is another opportunity for young leaders to pursue, and for seasoned veterans like me to offer.

I recently discovered a great book for young, up-and-coming leaders who desire to make the most of their credit union career and to better prepare for leadership. The book is titled, “Don’t Sabotage Your Career: 11 Power-filled Steps to Succeed,” written by Connie Miller, CEO of Icon Credit Union in Boise, Idaho. It’s filled with excellent advice, and I highly recommend it for young up and coming credit union leaders.

Serious (and hungry) up-and-coming leaders will actively seek out and pursue learning opportunities and mentorship. For those of us who occupy the corner offices, it’s important that we provide enthusiastic development support when our paths cross.

Why it matters

If the credit union space is to confront the future challenges and opportunities on the horizon, we need to invest in and develop a generation that has what it needs to define the dynamic issues and execute the right strategies. We must foster credit union leadership, and provide tomorrow’s leaders with an engaging job experience that prepares them to keep the credit union movement alive and well.

To all those new and emerging leaders I interacted with this year – thank you for engaging and inspiring me!

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