Effective Leadership – Greatness, Not Just Goodness, Needed


This means getting the right folks in the right seats on your credit union bus and giving them a license to pursue their passion in serving members.

By John A. Vardallas

With all the recent events unfolding in the international and national finan­­cial arena, there is a good deal of uncertainty from a business and economic standpoint regarding the future. One of the key areas of concern is the competency of our leaders. Just think about it–our political, corporate business, cultural and even sports scions have come into question of late. The economic in-equality in America is being blamed by the greed of corporate leadership!

As I travel throughout the country and on cruise ships, speaking at state, national and international credit union venues, and working with association, business, financial and civic leaders in their strategic planning sessions, the subject of effective leadership has always sparked interesting discussion.

Primarily the question of, what makes for an effective leader? Are leaders born with innate qualities or can effective leadership be taught and learned? This is a very important business issue since recent American employee surveys indicate that half of workers are unhappy because of “not being valued” due to weak organizational leadership.

I have worked with some very competent (and some not so competent) leaders during my 30 years of credit union, business and association experiences. Some traits or characteristics of effective CEO and board leadership that I have observed include the following:

  • A powerful business and people acumen.
  • An embracing of diversity.
  • The ability to inspire (not motivate) people to achieve.
  • A clear vision of seeing the possibilities and the preferred future for their organization.
  • The ability to build partnerships and alliances.
  • Being servant leaders to their customers/members.
  • A curiosity of the world and a facilitator of change.
  • Leading more by actions versus words.
  • The ability to utilize technology to achieve business results.
  • A risk taker and not fearing innovation or failure.
  • The ability to convert the learning of ideas into practice.
  • The ability to develop goals and execute plans.
  • Having a passion for their business philosophy in what they do for their, staff, boards, members, customers and consumers.

A key challenge for contemporary credit union leaders is to transfer our “People Helping People” philosophy or “Higher Calling” passion to all who are engaged in serving members and the community.

Credit Union leaders must strive for “Greatness not just Goodness!” This means getting the right folks in the right seats on your credit union bus and giving them a license to pursue their passion in serving members.

Leaders must understand that this higher calling employee “Personal Friendly Service Work Spirit” should be looked upon as our differentiating competitive advantage in the financial services marketplace. Greatness knows that innovation is not an option and great leaders know that if you are not changing you are dying.

Great, not just good, effective leadership will be one of the key factors of how the success of organizations will be measured in the future. And how current leaders transfer this higher calling passion to all who serve may be their most important legacy.

I hope your leadership practices and the leadership of your credit union will inspire greatness in you and your people during this uncertain and challenging economic time in America as we enter 2012.

Happy Great Year!

John A. Vardallas is Founder/CEO of TheAmericanBoomeR Consulting Group. He is a speaker/business strategist/sage to the credit union movement. He can be reached or (608) 577-8707.

This content is for CU BUSINESS eMagazine , Special Deal: 2 websites , and NEW! The Leadership Team Builder Group Subscription members only.
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