Finger-pointing only gets you so far. So does a federal bailout. The financial stabilization act will address some of the issues facing the world's financial players, but it neglects to address the most basic of issues: How can the industry avoid such failings again? It can start by installing strong leaders and demanding accountability from them and their boards. If this is to remain capitalism-without smacking of socialism-then problem-solving and trouble-shooting must occur before a crisis begins to roil markets, and without the entrenched aid of the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department.

The next generation of leaders will undoubtedly see many women at the helm of major financial institutions-something many women have said is long overdue. Without question, top-performing women are ready for the challenge. At the recent U.S. Banker-hosted gala honoring The 25 Most Powerful Women in Banking, JPMorgan Chase's Heidi Miller, CEO of Treasury and Securities Services, observed that "these are difficult times, and we face extraordinary circumstances in our industry and in our nation."

But it is during times of crisis that one sees who is capable of landing on their feet-a skill Miller says more women need to acquire if they are to lead great organizations with confidence, prowess and instinct. Bank of America's Barbara Desoer, President of Mortgage, Home Equity and Insurance Services-which includes the lending operations of Countrywide-has one of the toughest jobs ahead of her, yet she inspires confidence when clinically looking at what it will take to perform in what many consider a difficult job.

Desoer's the three most important lessons: lead from the front and always convey confidence, passion, and keep people focused; control what you can control, since the news will remain negative for a while; and accept a challenge, because the biggest opportunities arise when times are the toughest. "We can either let this cycle define us or we can define the future that's on the other end of this cycle. We have a choice and how we act will determine our ultimate level of success as leaders."

Clearly given Desoer and Miller's track records of late-and others like them-performance is achievable in even the toughest of markets.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.