In my role as CEO of DCUC, I recently had the pleasure of spending time with emerging credit union leaders during a Filene Research Event and at a DCUC hosted social for the 2020 GAC Crashers. Both experiences were great opportunities to learn from and to share some of the insights, experiences, and leadership moments that I gained during my 25-year military career as an officer and senior commander in the United States Air Force.
Military command is much different than being a CEO. The judicial power alone makes the experience unique. Then, there are the “one-off” events and situations that make it challenging. As such, I have often been asked to share some of my experience, along with leadership tips and pointers. To mention everything would be too long for one article; however, my recommended starting place is always the same. I always share my initial reading list, along with my rationale for why it is important for leaders to build a solid base.
To set the stage, I like to share the “grocery store” metaphor or my approach to leadership. When you go to the grocery store, do you buy everything on every shelf, or do you buy only what you need? Leadership advice should be the same. Right now, you are entering my Leadership Store. I will offer many items; some you might need now and some you might need later. So, I encourage you to take what you need and leave the rest on the shelf.
My Initial Reading List: For brand new leaders and senior executives, I recommend the following books to get you started and to build a base for dealing with future emergencies and normal business decisions:
- Leadershock…And How to Triumph Over It: Eight Revolutionary Rules for Becoming a Powerful and Exhilarated Leader (by Greg Hicks, 2004)
“Leadershock” refers to the reality leaders face today, being Overwhelmed, Overloaded, and Overstressed. This doesn’t just affect new leaders. It happens all the time.
In the book, Greg Hicks offers eight rules for overcoming “Leadershock”:
- The most powerful idea is to Activate Your Intentions. Each day, before each action, do two things: set your intentions (i.e. the attitude and behavior you’ll take) and state them at the beginning of every communication. “My intention in calling this meeting today is…” No BS here, just sound psychology and a way to clarify communications and build trust.
- Own it ALL!
- Refuse to Conform
- Recast Your Stress: Discover what you are feeling, figure out the meaning of your emotions, then explore the opportunities this situation presents.
- Replace Your Plans with Possibilities
- Focus on Your People First
- Give. Don’t Take!
- Always Demand the Truth
- Lions Don’t Need to Roar: Using the Leadership Power of Personal Presence to Stand Out, Fit in and Move Ahead (by Debra A. Benton, 1992)
This book teaches exactly how I would expect credit union leaders to act in any crowd, meeting, or one-on-one engagement. How you carry yourself and exercise personal self-control during a simple business meeting is very important. It is even more critical during a crisis when people look to you for a calm sense of direction.
Lions Don’t Need to Roar is a guide for making better impressions. It also describes how to effectively exercise power and properly develop personal relationships at work. In any corporate culture, the goal is paradoxical: you want to fit in AND stand out. Based on D.A. Benton’s experience in working with CEOs as a coach, trainer, and consultant, this book offers a variety of techniques that emphasize personal presentation and communication skills, which are useful to anyone wanting to get ahead. I promise, you will love this book!
- The 48 Laws of Power (by Robert Greene, 2000)“For those who want power, watch power, or want to arm themselves against power.“As Johann von Goethe said (as quoted in The 48 Laws of Power, of course): “The only means to gain one’s ends with people are force and cunning. Love also, they say, but that is to wait for sunshine, and life needs every moment.“
We all aspire to be perfect leaders with only the best intentions toward executing our mission’s responsibilities. Yet, there are always individuals and groups who will employ various schemes and tactics against you, your credit union, or even our entire industry. After reading this book, you will be able to spot these individuals more easily and have a better defense against these kinds of Machiavellian power plays.
I recommend this book because it is easy to read, has lots of historical examples, and teaches how to employ the various “laws,” how not to transgress the various “laws,” and how to watch for reversals. Each chapter is its own section, meaning you do not have to read this book cover-to-cover and can jump around to whatever “law” catches your interest. Plus, the notes in the margins are fantastic. Whether you agree with the “laws” or not, it is always good to understand the tactics and prepare a superior defense.
Reading and Mentoring: These are two essential parts of leadership in the 21st Century. I believe it is impossible to separate the two during the development and practice of leadership. In fact, I proposed this very theory in a recent LinkedIn article which you can read here. Consider this article a “BOGO Deal” in my Leadership Store. I encourage you to go read it, and if it makes you think and explore, then you are well on your way.
I hope you found something you needed from my Leadership Store. The magic is that you are now opening your own personal store, and it will be your leadership brand that will build the next generation of leaders and help you tackle the next crisis. In the future, I hope to share many of the leadership challenges my team has faced, both how we distributed leadership and how we mastered the situation.