What Makes for Great, Not just Good Leaders?

01/2006 Article by John A. Vardallas CAE, CUDE

The subject of effective leadership has always sparked interesting discussion. With the events unfolding in the international arena, there is a good deal of uncertainty from a business and economic standpoint regarding the future. One of the key areas of concern is the competency of our leaders.

Just think about it, our religious, political, corporate, and even cultural and social icons have come into question as of late. According to recent surveys the most trusted groups of leaders in the USA right now are teachers, nurses, firepersons and pharmacists. Hats off to them!

How do you describe an effective leader? Are leaders born with innate qualities or can effective leadership be learned? This is a very important business issue. Recent American employee surveys indicate that two thirds of workers are unhappy because of “not being valued” due to weak organizational leadership.

I have worked with some very competent (and some not so competent) leaders during my twenty -five years of business and association experiences. Some traits or characteristics of effective CEO and Board leadership I have observed include:

  • Powerful business and people acumen
  • Embracing of diversity
  • The ability to inspire (not motivate) people to achieve
  • A clear vision of seeing the possibilities and the preferred future for their organization
  • The ability to build partnerships and alliances
  • Being servant leaders to their customers/members/consumers
  • A curiosity of the world with skills to facilitate and lead change
  • Leading by actions, not just words
  • The ability to utilize technology to achieve business results
  • A risk taker who does not fear failure
  • The ability to convert the learning of ideas into practice
  • The ability to execute plans
  • Having a Passion for their business philosophy in what they do for their staff, boards, members, customers, and consumers.

A key challenge for contemporary credit union leaders is to transfer our “People Helping People” passion or “Higher Calling” to all who are engaged in serving members and the community.

Leaders must understand that this higher calling “Service Work Spirit” should be looked upon as an organization’s differentiating competitive advantages in the marketplace.

Effective leadership will be one of the key factors of how the success of organizations will be measured in the 21st century. And how current leaders transfer this higher calling passion to all who serve may be their most important legacy.

I hope your leadership practices and the leadership of your credit union will inspire greatness in you and your people during this uncertain and challenging time in America!

John A. Vardallas is Founder/CEO OF TheAmericanBoomeR Consulting Group. He is a speaker/business strategist to the credit union movement. He can be reached at Dear John@theamericanboomer.com or Office (608) 221-4621 Cell (608)577-8707.

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