Leadership is, at times, an honor, a burden, a privilege, a headache, a riddle, a mirror, a crisis, and a joy. Sometimes it’s two or more of these at the same time.
But leadership is first, foremost, and always, a responsibility.
A responsibility to whom? Ask any good leader, and they’ll tell you that they have, broadly speaking, three constituencies:
1. Their team
When a leader is responsible to the team, that leader:
- communicates a clear and compelling direction for the team;
- shares the credit with the team for all successes;
- accepts the responsibility for all “failures;”
- treats team members as individuals;
- creates a context where team members can grow and develop their potential.
2. Their organization
A leader is responsible to the organization that employs him or her, no matter whether that employment is paid or voluntary. This means that the leader:
- delivers results that drive the organization forward;
- acts in a way that presents the organization in the best possible light;
- makes decisions and takes actions that support the long-term success of the organization;
- communicates honestly with others within the organization, even when — in fact, especially when — the information is negative or otherwise uncomfortable;
- realizes that his or her employment represents an investment by the organization, and always makes sure that the return on that investment is greater than the cost.
3. Their community
Corporate social responsibility is becoming more and more important, particularly to the millennials who comprise the workforce and the customer/member base. Because of this, a responsible leader:
- actively looks for ways that the goals of the organization intersect with the goals of the community (and that community can be local, regional, national, or global);
- understands that the organization is, in a sense, a “citizen” of the larger community, and strives to make sure that it’s a good citizen;
- recognizes that when you’re in a community, it really sucks when one of your neighbors is a jerk — so a good leader tries very hard to not be a jerk;
- supports the larger community through sponsorships, scholarships, and/or other outreach opportunities;
- asks not just, “Is this good for my organization?” but also, “Is this good for my community?” when making decisions (and, again, “community” can be local, regional, national, or global).
That’s a lot of responsibility, and it’s not always possible to deliver on all the implied promises. Sometimes one responsibility ends up being in conflict with another, and the leader has to make a decision. But then, that’s what leaders do, don’t they? They make decisions.
The big picture here is that I want you to take your credit union leadership seriously. It’s not just about getting your reports done on time. That’s management. Leadership is something bigger.
Yes, it’s a responsibility. But try changing the word “responsibility” to “opportunity.” As a leader, you have an opportunity to make a difference. To your team, to your organization, and to your community. That’s the foundation on which credit unions are built.
I think that’s pretty cool.