Identifying the "It" Factor for Rising Professionals
A willingness to LISTEN and Learn!
Belief in the seven cooperative principles (not to be confused with the belief in the seven dwarves)
Determination combined with Flexibility
Joyfulness both in life and work along with a sense of purpose!
Vice President Marketing/Business Development
Carolina Postal Credit Union
Education, experience and technical skills are all important, but almost anyone can be trained to perform a job. Real leadership emanates from a combination of personal traits and acquired competencies developed over time, within a framework of coaching, mentoring and continuous learning.
I don’t mean to diminish the importance of education and training. Most executive positions with credit unions these days require at minimum a bachelor’s degree, and an advanced degree, such as an MBA, is highly desirable. Yet studies have shown that when executives exhibit only results-oriented skills (left brain), or only interpersonal skills (right brain), they are not as successful as when they sustain both kinds of competencies. As author Daniel Pink notes in his book, A Whole New Mind, the demand for right brains skills and competencies will increase exponentially as we move from the Information Age into the Conceptual Age. Executives who fail to master these critical skills will find themselves left behind in the leadership game.
Here are the skills and competencies that I look for in a high-potential executive:
1. Sense of Purpose
Life is more than just showing up; true leaders exhibit a sense of purpose that transcends their day jobs. Find your sense of purpose.
The energy I’m talking about here is the kind that is generated from within. Negative, or catabolic, energy drains you; positive, or anabolic, energy transforms you and creates a zone around you that infects everything you do (in a good way!). Create anabolic energy.
The dictionary defines empathy as the ability to identify with and understand somebody else’s feelings and difficulties. Feeling empathy allows you to remain open, without judgment, to ideas and concepts that are different from your own.
As kids we are curious about everything, yet by the time we are adults we have lost our sense of curiosity and have become skeptical and jaded. Curiosity invites continuous learning, maintains wonder, questions assumptions, and suspends judgment. Remain curious.
Resilience is about knowing when to bend, and being able to rebound from disappointments and failures. Resilience is not about avoiding failure, but about understanding that failure is what makes us strongest, and more bendable.
6. Priority Management
Most people complain that they never have enough time and some actually pay experts to help them manage their time. It’s not the time that’s the problem; it’s the priorities. Everything does not carry the same level of importance; you must choose your priorities.
Understand that everything is not about you. In fact, it’s almost never about you. Being self-aware means paying more attention to others than yourself. Leaders who are self-aware are confident but not arrogant, practice humility, give credit to others, understand that the buck stops with them, and continuously connect to their inner sense of well-being and purpose.
Lindsay A Alexander
The typical answer to a question like this is something along the lines of "shows rugged determination." Perhaps that is one important trait, but what I see as indicative of a future star is inquisitiveness that drives decision-making.
What I mean is that the person asks lots of questions, getting to the root of a problem, or the rationale for a process or procedure, and then uses what they have learned through questioning to help them make informed, forward-looking decisions (such as making a decision to establish a more efficient procedure, or making a decision to eliminate the cause of a problem).
Many, if not most, employees of a company do their jobs by the book, closely following procedures without question. While such people are necessary, even vital to organizational stability, those that look to understand more than the manual show an intelligence indicating strong leadership potential.
A word of caution. Some people ask lots of questions driven not by inquisitiveness but cynicism. The difference between rising leaders, those with "it," and cynics is what happens after the questioning stops. Cynics are prone to use their knowledge to try to convince others around them that they should be cynical as well. Leaders, certainly rising leaders, use their knowledge to engage with and/or elevate others around them.
Thomas A. Glatt Jr.
Glatt Consulting, LLC
When I worked with Jim Cardwell (former CUNA staffer) of the Executive Network (now in Ohio ), we contracted to find competent CU executives for Boards of Directors.
We developed a list of core competencies (accounting, investing, managing, communicating, leading, delegating, planning, organizing, controlling, evaluating, etc.)
Each credit union had a unique membership and unique challenges. We looked at the relationship of the Board and the Management (CEO) like a marriage. We worked like a "matchmaker" for a wedding. We wanted to find the right chemistry.
The "it" of today is different than the "it" of yesterday. Today you have to be a marriage partner with all of the competencies and the ability to deal with numerous challenges while serving as a "conductor" of a great orchestra....blending all of the competencies and specialties to develop sweet music and success.
President, TOPICS UNLIMITED and
Former President, Fairwinds CU
The trait I look for most often is someone who takes responsibility for their actions – especially when a decision they’ve made doesn’t turn out the way they had hoped. By taking responsibility I mean - recognizing their part in the outcome, and earnestly wanting to learn from the experience. I know it isn’t easy to own a mistake when you are an “up and comer” and trying to prove your value. So when I see someone that can be humble enough and genuine in their desire to learn, I know they will be great at leading others in the same fashion.
Vice President - Retail
Of course it goes without saying the rising professional should be well grounded in the fundamentals of Credit Union operations. However I believe the most important thing is the ability to hire and retain good employees that believe in member service and the Credit Union purpose. The intereaction with employees having and retaining their respect is fundamental to success.
A start is the hiring process. I always believed in doing the hiring process myself and I always looked for attitude, not experience necessarily. Success depended on having employees that needed and appreciated the job as well as the credit union needing an employee for a position. CEOs must genuienly care for their employees. People/employees care mostly how you make them feel when in your presence and you cannot deceive them into thinking you care when you do not.
Fort Sill FCU
Over the years both in emergency management and credit unions there are several personal traits that I have found make a good leader. A good leader must express confidence in their decisions. Their confidence will overflow to others when taking on new projects. They must be able to remain calm! Crises come and go, and are part of the process, and they will work their way through them without losing their focus. They will use their analytical skills to handle these bumps in the road to complete their assigned tasks. They also must be able to realize when they have gone down the wrong road and be willing to cut their losses and move in a different direction. But above all they must be willing to recognize the work (effort) of others and acknowledge them. People want to follow someone who is confident, committed to excellence and of good character, and appreciates the effort of others when completing their projects.
CEO, Sheehan's Consulting
Former CEO Miami Firefighters FCU