One of the most exciting and energizing parts of my job is meeting enthusiastic aspiring and emerging leaders in the CU community.
You’re young, new to the CU world––or maybe you’ve come to the credit union from another job. You’re enjoying the community focus and sense of caring here. You like that you’re part of something important.
You’re also ambitious, eager for new challenges and opportunities and you want to take the next step into CU leadership.
Here are 8 STRATEGIES that can help you realize your potential and become a leader in your credit union, and in your community:
#1 Work first on being a good follower.
Great leaders are usually also great followers. Understand that “follower” is a role, not a position. Effective leaders listen––and they solicit input from the people they serve.
They recognize when it’s time to share authority and support someone else who may be better suited to a particular task.
They know when to defer to the people with the knowledge and experience to get the job done––even if those people work on the front lines.
They recognize that great ideas can come from anyone in the organization.
If you want to lead effectively––first learn how to follow.
#2 Find the right Master.
CU leaders are extremely generous when it comes to sharing their wisdom and experience. They want to help you develop and they embrace their role in developing the leaders who will carry the CU mission into the future.
They’re also really, really busy!
Don’t wait around for your supervisor or CEO to take you under their wing. They may be willing and wanting––but they’ve got a lot of people to serve and precious little time.
Having said that––they’ll make time when you show initiative.
Reach out and you’ll find someone who will be honored to show you the way.
#3 Commit yourself to personal and professional Mastery.
A lot of people ask me what they need to do to get ahead in life. My answer is always the same.
Work on making yourself better––a better person and a better professional.
There are a lot of factors that influence your career trajectory. You can’t control all the circumstances and conditions around you.
Make yourself better, and make yourself better at what you do. You can control that––and that will give you the best shot at new opportunities.
#4 Ask before you’re asked––act before you’re asked.
Leaders lead. That means instead of waiting around for orders, when you see something that needs doing––do it.
This doesn’t mean going over anyone’s head.
The chain of command is in place for a reason. That’s why I also say “ask before you’re asked.”
Opportunities go to the doers––not to the people who stand around and later say, “I could have done that.”
#5 Learn to deal with uncertainty.
Your ability to deal with uncertainty and respond to unforeseen challenges is one of the most important indicators of leadership potential. If you’re not comfortable with uncertainty––get comfortable.
Get out of your comfort zone once in a while. Embrace new challenges and, to be blunt about it, toughen up!
#6 Learn to talk and write good.
If you don’t get the joke––you’ve got some work to do.
Communication skills are essential for effective leadership, and yet our ability to speak and write with clarity is declining at an alarming rate.
Your advancement is dependent on your ability to express yourself.
Read voraciously and take advantage of every opportunity to write and speak. Study effective communicators. Practice continually and seek out constructive criticism.
#7 Focus on experience over rewards.
I have no tolerance for entitlement mentality. I can’t stand people who demand rewards before proof of performance…
Even though I was one of those people myself––in a past life!
Hindsight is a great teacher and I’ve come to realize that some of my worst jobs were the best––in terms of experience and developing the knowledge and skills that serve me well today.
I don’t have the space for the whole story here, but one of the most valuable jobs I ever had was working as a janitor. When you meet me in person, I’ll tell you the “rest of the story.”
For now I’ll just say that I didn’t realize it at the time, but being a janitor taught me how to care for things, how to be a leader on the front lines, how to work with just about anyone and how to manage myself when my boss wasn’t around.
Pretty valuable life and leadership lessons––all from mopping floors at minimum wage.
#8 Lead by sharing, not accumulating.
I can sum up everything I know about leadership in one simple statement:
“Leadership is sharing––a leader shares.”
An effective leader shares knowledge, wisdom, experience. The best leaders share authority, compassion, respect and most of all––power.
Sharing is a discipline. Start now.
That’s enough to work on for now. I’m sure you could add more useful strategies to this list, but I seriously doubt you can become an authentic leader without these.
And I do want you to become an authentic leader––someone with the ability to attract willing followers and the will to serve them.
The world needs more authentic leaders, and there is no better place to express yourself as a caring, compassionate and effective leader than in the CU community. CU leaders are making a difference, every day, serving their communities and helping people realize their potential and their dreams.
Be one of those leaders. Start today.