Chief Investment Officer
Commercial Loan Automation
leaders who deliver results
Leadership is an elusive trait. Volumes have been written about it, and will continue to be written. One often missing element in considering leadership is delivering results. We know what it takes to become a leader, but what is needed to be one who can get things done and concurrently serve shareholders, associates and customers well? True leadership involves inspiring associates and increasing the capabilities of others to optimize business results. It entails several dimensions.
Excellence - Leadership is all about people. Attracting, developing, and retaining exceptional people is the first order of business for any successful leader. You're only as good as your people who touch customers every day and deliver your brand promise to them one customer at a time. In some ways this is the textbook definition of leadership - creating consistent customer experience across the franchise, which ultimately yields delighted, tenured and profitable customers. However, this is only half the story. Achieving consistent, reasonably predictable, and superior financial results is the final test of strong leaders.
A strong sense of urgency that permeates the entire organization is the first step toward value creation. The second is living the "customer first" mindset every day, leading by example. For instance, answering the phone that rings twice while visiting a branch is worth more than countless memos asking your associates to do so. Leaders take an active role in mentoring and developing others throughout the ranks, not just one or two levels down. They participate in employee orientations and deliver a consistent message and tone from the top time and time again.
Execution-oriented leaders are also very strategic, and have the ability to clearly articulate their vision and the organization's future direction. We can't bank customers tomorrow the same way we bank them today.
Integrity - High moral standards impact all facet of corporate life. Leaders must create that expectation across the board by being honest and ethical in all their relationships and actions. They should welcome open communications with positive feedback without retribution. Strong leaders also exhibit managerial courage, and are willing to make difficult decisions crisply and thoughtfully.
Respect - Strong leadership entails motivating large groups of people. This can only be done through showing respect to all members of the team. Without such respect people will quickly disengage and feel unheard. Dick Kovacevitch, the finest banker I've ever met, could and did speak frequently with all levels of employees, from tellers to his direct reports. He treated everyone with the utmost respect and created an emotional connection with a wide swath of his large team. Such a connection gave him real and invaluable feedback on what was happening throughout the organization at all levels. Listening to team members is another aspect of respect, which facilitates two-way communication and mutual understanding.
Innovation - Continuous improvement and the drive to get better are essential to successful leadership. The world is changing too fast, and sticking to old models until they become obsolete doesn't enhance shareholder value (e.g. Blackberry). Conversely, being on the bleeding edge doesn't always pay off either. The key is to create a mindset that welcomes improvements and innovation, an attitude of proactively seeking better ways of doing things and serving customers to ensure the long-term success of the organization. Strong leaders promote "next generation" thinking and listen to young people outside their immediate circle to gain insights into the evolving environment and customer preferences.
Successful leaders can handle change and know how to implement it system-wide. They help the rest of the team to consider ideas from a global and corporate-level perspective rather than myopically, which ultimately mobilizes the entire organization toward better resource utilization and staying relevant.
Commitment - Leaders know where the buck stops, and take ownership and responsibility for what occurs within the company. They actively engage all bank constituents - customers, communities and associates - to build lasting relationships. They give people opportunities to succeed throughout the organization by focusing everyone on execution and becoming an accepted member of the teams they serve. True leaders recognize that their value is in helping their teams become more effective than they thought possible, and, through their personal commitment, they help their people get there.
There are many attributes to leadership, but if the focus is on execution, getting things done and providing service to all constituencies effectively, the five listed above are indispensable.
In summary, an outstanding leader is one who has the right blend of science (they can do the numbers and write the deals by the book) and art (they can develop lasting relationships and are creative in structuring the deals). For every ounce of brain, they come with an ounce of charisma and heart. That's a winning combination for all parties!