Revolutionizing leadership: Elevating standards and expectations for management

When contemplating the most impactful roles in society, those that profoundly affect human well-being and development, parenting and leadership stand out. Despite their significance, these pivotal responsibilities surprisingly lack mandatory training, certification, or standard requirements.

While it’s true that today there are numerous resources and classes available to assist new parents (although, let’s be honest, no class can fully prepare you for such a monumental life change), and some organizations are offering leadership training to managers, these efforts are often fragmented and inconsistent. However, I’m not here to discuss parenting. Instead, I’d like to shift our attention to leadership. Unlike numerous professions, management lacks clear minimum requirements and universally recognized standards.

The barista at your local coffee shop gets more training than most leaders. Why? Because coffee connoisseurs know that there’s an art to making a great cappuccino. No one is going to put a brand-new employee behind the coffee counter to fail.

In nearly every industry I’ve consulted in, individuals are frequently promoted into management and executive roles without the requisite training or essential skills for effective leadership. This often stems from inadequate preparation by organizations, which fail to consider the qualities, competencies, and skills necessary for success in these positions. Moreover, the requirements for success in management have evolved over the past few decades, yet many leaders have not updated their leadership styles and still rely on outdated practices. Consequently, there has been an increase of poorly trained, ineffective managers who struggle to engage their teams and often contribute to a toxic work culture. This widespread issue highlights the importance of identifying and nurturing true leadership potential, as promoting individuals ill-equipped for leadership roles leads to disengaged employees and the erosion of company culture.

Here is a truth that we must embrace if we are going to elevate our industry and position credit unions to thrive and not survive:

Not everyone is meant to be a leader

Just like not everyone is meant to be a pilot, a teacher, an artist, a chef, or a barista.

You wouldn’t think of getting on a plane if the pilot didn’t have a license. You wouldn’t go to a health practitioner with no training, experience, or medical degree. And you’d stop going to a local coffee shop that didn’t train their baristas in the art of coffee-making. These respected professions have specific requirements for success. It’s time we started treating leadership as a respected profession, one that requires specific standards and prerequisites for advancement.

We need a leadership revolution

Leadership is a privilege, and a huge responsibility.

Leading in today’s environment is more challenging than ever before. The skills, competencies, and qualities required for successful leadership have evolved significantly in the past several decades. Effective leaders must now provide clarity for their teams, prioritize key results, nurture organizational culture, facilitate difficult conversations, coach and develop employees, manage in hybrid and virtual settings, and navigate a rapidly changing world where change is constant.

While past managers could succeed with a transactional, bureaucratic, results-oriented approach, today’s leaders must focus on positive influence, emphasizing well-being, care, and connections, all while achieving results. This demands advanced empathy, flexibility, and emotional intelligence skills. Managers and executives must adeptly tailor their leadership style to influence individuals possessing diverse personalities, backgrounds, values, generations, and thinking patterns.

Creating a modern culture is essential to stay relevant and thrive in today’s complex world.

The way we create modern cultures is ensuring our managers are employing modern leadership practices. Many managers and executives are defaulting to an old operating style and have not upgraded their leadership skills to stay relevant with the times.

This requires training people before they move into a leadership role. By promoting people into leadership positions without the necessary skills, organizations leave their biggest asset—their people—at the mercy of inexperienced and undertrained leaders who contribute to disengagement and lower productivity. When supervisors, managers, and executives haven’t been trained in modern leadership skills, they tend to manage how they were managed—the traditional approach of fixing, directing, micromanaging, and controlling.

According to Gallup’s most recent research, only 33% of employees in the United States are engaged at work, meaning only one-third of employees bring their full effort to work each day. Mediocre leadership not only leads to lower engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction, but it also impacts member service.

There is a huge opportunity for our industry to elevate our employee engagement and wellbeing, which will elevate the service our members experience from our industry.

The way we elevate our cultures is by elevating our leaders.

The direct manager has the biggest impact on how your employees experience work. Certainly, the executive level sets the tone—but if your middle level managers don’t know how to engage employees in a tangible way, your culture will deteriorate. Promotion to leadership should not be a reward for hard work.

We need to stop promoting for technical expertise and instead promote for leadership qualities, competencies, and skills, and this starts with every single leader.

We need to support our managers and set them up for success instead of setting them up to fail. Each management position should have specific competencies identified for success. While not all leadership positions are alike, standard competencies like empathy, people-focus, and emotional intelligence skills should be minimum requirements for entry.

Every single person who manages another human being should be required to complete leadership training before they become a supervisor. There’s a lot of advice around how to manage up—how to effectively manage your boss. This is very valuable, and the skills for managing the relationship with your boss are important. But it is not an employee’s job to manage a toxic boss.

We also need to give employees a peek behind the curtain of what leadership really entails before they commit to managing people. We need to make it okay to opt out of leadership.

Cultural health must be a strategic priority

Most organizations don’t take a strategic approach to elevating the leadership quality in their organizations. It takes an intentional approach—assessing the talent of every employee, determining who is in the right role and who is not, and taking decisive action. This action could involve coaching, training, teaching, or, in some cases, termination.

In addition, credit unions need to purposefully develop high potentials for leadership roles.

As leaders, it is our responsibility to nurture the organizational culture. Therefore, if someone is underperforming, regardless of their tenure or likability, we must not ignore or circumvent the issue. Instead, we must address the root cause.

Imagine if each of us focused on elevating our leadership and our credit union cultures, how we would elevate our industry and position the credit union movement to not only survive, but THRIVE. You have the power to create that. I hope you will join me in a leadership revolution to elevate your team, elevate your culture, and to elevate our credit union industry.

Laurie Maddalena

Laurie Maddalena

Laurie Maddalena is a dynamic and engaging keynote speaker and leadership consultant. She writes a monthly online column for next generation leaders for CUES and has published articles in Credit ... Web: Details