The key ingredients for leadership

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Leading is tough work.

Some days it’s a walk in the park. On others, it feels like the running of the bulls.

Those are days when your only hope is to make it out alive without getting tangled up in the horns of angry staff or an administrative mishap. It makes you wonder if balance is possible. How do you lead effectively when leading often feels like riding a roller coaster?

But it’s time to get off the ride and leave Pamplona for good. Here are a few tips for CEOs on leadership.

First, integrity is everything. It’s no secret. Good companies become great by leading with integrity. Make it a focus, and talk about it often with your staff. Integrity should be a regular part of external and internal communications. Members may still be affected by data breaches that occurred just a few years ago.

For instance, who doesn’t remember the Home Depot nightmare? Just last year it was reported the big box home improvement giant will pay $27.3 million to financial institutions affected by the 2014 data breach. And while that’s good news for credit unions and other financial institutions affected by the breach… ouch.

Still, it’s good to see Home Depot stepping up to take ownership for the breach. If integrity had a price tag, Home Depot would say it costs millions, but is worth every penny.

Yet, integrity applies to more than cyberspace computer hacks performed by criminal enterprises on the dark web. It crops up in other places.

Take Uber, for instance. Former CEO and founder, Travis Kalanick, was ousted in March 2017 after a vote from the board revealed they lost confidence in him as a leader. Boil the assessment down and you are left with one word: Integrity. To their credit, new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is bringing new life and leadership into the exasperated company.

If you want your staff and members to have confidence in you, integrity is a must.

With this in mind, let’s turn to Jared Freeman, CEO of ASE Credit Union, based in Alabama. In 2015, he became the youngest credit union CEO in ASECU history when he was chosen to man the helm at 27 years old. He offers two amazing leadership tips for credit union CEOs, according to a piece by Forbes.

First, develop a work ethic that works. This should come as no surprise, really. Anything worth doing is worth doing well and a solid work ethic is a powerful leadership engine.

Freeman says he learned this when he was just starting out in a small town, according to the Forbes piece. He would come in early, stay late and take interest in the climate and culture of the financial institution. He says it threw them off guard a bit because they weren’t used to that sort of work ethic.

In short, it can be summed up in one word: Initiative. A study by the University of Konstanz in Germany casts characters in real life scenarios. It’s no surprise the leaders of the pack were those who took initiative. It is an essential leadership skill. Freeman says taking initiative is actually very easy. All you need to do is ask the right questions and follow through beyond the expectation.

Secondly, Freeman creates a member mindset.

Freeman’s focus is his 35,000 members, the Forbes article cites. In fact, he is hyper-focused on meeting their needs. During his first year, the credit union experienced a 250 percent profit increase under his leadership. Specifically, they earned more in the first eight months of his leadership than 2013 to 2015 combined. Freeman says performance was lackluster due to complacency, according to Forbes. It can strangle profits and do so long-term, if it shifts from an anomaly to company culture.

Pay-for-production models are helpful in this regard. Freeman instituted one for employees in order to jumpstart a motivated mindset. It worked.

This is very easy to do when you have a member mindset. Secured lending, automobile lending, CDs, money market accounts, home financing – any of them can generate consistent revenue by focusing on how they best serve the needs of members.

Take these tips to heart to transform your credit union throughout the year. Lay a solid foundation of integrity. Lead with a solid work ethic. Develop a hyper focus on serving members.

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