SAN FRANCISCO – In a moving tribute to “leadership by example,” the former commander of a once-debunked U.S. Navy ship told credit union executives here they can lead their organizations to greatness and high performance if “they leave their ego at the door” and have respect and care for individuals at the bottom of the economic rung. In a keynote address at CUNA’s Future Forum, the much-honored Mike Abrashoff recounted his tale of turning around the low morale, poorly rated USS Benfold into the best ship in the Navy earning praise from former President Jimmy Carter. Abrashoff said he always encouraged his 300 sailors on board “to speak up” and not be fearful of the chain of command and to appreciate their jobs through “ownership.” Abrashoff also said he tried to foster humor and hold “fun events” because they proved highly important in building morale. Bringing tears to the audience of 1,000 at the San Francisco Hilton, Abrashoff recalled that when he left command of the USS Benfold there were no “cheers” which is a sign of disrespect “but there were tears.” The concluding speaker at the Forum, 1980 Olympics Hockey Gold Medal Winner Mike Eruzione, urged the CUNA audience to stress old fashioned values like commitment and pride in the workplace as a means of building organizational success.

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