Why Directors' Statements Were Unsettling

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It is almost always dangerous to comment on something when your knowledge is limited to an article published about the subject. But the article that appeared in The Credit Union Journal (CU Journal, Nov. 8) documenting the negative reactions of CU directors with respect to a discussion about aging and succession plans raises issues that are too important to ignore.

As a leadership and business strategy consultant, the reactions documented in the article are at best disturbing. At their worst, they should strike fear in the minds of everyone who believes in the true potential of the credit union movement.

Let me explain my perspective on this and delineate the reasons the article was so unsettling.

1. All successful organizations grow and evolve over time. In the increasingly dynamic financial services marketplace, it is imperative that new ideas, perspectives, and approaches be considered when setting strategic direction for a credit union, regardless of its size. It is shortsighted, and potentially very dangerous, to ignore the different perspectives that people from different generations can bring to the board from both the strategic and the operational perspective.

2. The job of the volunteer leader is to serve the organization and to make decisions based upon what is best for the organization. To argue that succession planning is not needed because the current board members have the tenure and experience to continue to lead the organization into the future because they have led it in the past is absurd. Granted there is much to be learned from past experiences, but the list of businesses that were successfully built by people who struggled in trying to run them once they were established is long enough to prove that different attributes are needed at different stages in the life of your credit union.

3. Succession planning is the single most important job that any credit union leader does, and in today's world it is a necessity. Effective leaders know that the best they can do is to take the organization as far as they can take it and then bring in a new team who can take it to the next level. A good portion of effective leadership is about just that: creating the organizational capacity to allow the organization to go further without you than it could with you, and to ensure that the organization is protected should something happen that keeps you from continuing to serve.

In closing, let me simplify the issue to this: When one steps forward as a volunteer leader for a credit union, they are accepting a responsibility to lead. That means that their focus shifts from what is good for them to what is good for the credit union. Building organizations that last demands that we look beyond our personal needs and consider the greater organizational good...the only way to truly lead your credit union is to make sure that what you have built can live on without you!

Michael Hudson, Ph.D., is a speaker and facilitator who has more than 20 years of "in-the-trenches" experience helping leaders become more effective and build organizations that last. He is the author of "Revitalize Now (before it's too late). For info: www.CreditUnionLeader.com

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