If nothing else, a leader's job is to put the best people available in the right positions and make sure they have the means to get the job done.
In my last column, I described some of the ways managers should structure their organizations to be competitive. Today's installment will focus on the sort of manager - and what type of leadership - is necessary to prosper in a super community bank setting.
In some banks, the term "manager" has come to mean someone who controls rather than facilitates, or complicates rather than simplifies.
The bank manager of the past was Dr. No, finding ways to block employees from implementing new ideas or taking entrepreneurial risks. Some managers muddle things with pointless complexity and detail. They equate managing with sounding smarter than anyone else. These types inspire no one.
Instead, leaders must provide an atmosphere in which employees can make decisions that will approximate the way senior management would. An organization with the right decision-making discipline will be indifferent to who makes the decision. The end result should be the same.
Successful super community banks will be managed by shareholders for shareholders. The people who run the businesses must have a keen sense of ownership so that they will run them as entrepreneurs, rather than as caretakers.
The manager is the person who is able to get everybody to share information - to really communicate until they all know the same thing, share a common vision, and move in the same direction.
The mindset of yesterday's manager was to accept compromise and keep things neat, which tended to breed complacency. Tomorrow's leaders raise issues, debate them, resolve them. They are the straw that stirs the drink.
They aren't afraid to go against today's current because they know their constituency is tomorrow. They rally people around a vision of what the business can become. They rely less on control than on trust. Managers and officers also need to do better at one-on-one communicating with individuals about their jobs and aspirations.
We need people who are self-sufficient and accountable for their successes and failures. It gives them a chance to flourish.
At the same time, we should expect some to wilt. That's the sad part of the job. Some who look good in a big bureaucracy look silly when you leave them alone. They used to look all right. They had support. They presented themselves well - even came in with charts - and didn't look anywhere near as bad as they look by themselves.
By giving people accountability and responsibility and eliminating unnecessary layers, you speed communication and return control and accountability to the line where it belongs.
A good manager takes it as given that the people under him or her have a better grasp than the manager does in what the reality of the business is and how the marketplace is shaping up.
No one likes change. Changes are tough to embrace and even tougher to implement. But it is a critically important survival capability for people in all businesses, particularly in the financial services industry.
The environment is going through rapid, intense changes, all happening at a much faster pace than ever before. We must recognize this and welcome the opportunity to put our companies through important alterations. Only companies that are ready and eager to rewrite their agenda - looking reality in the eye - will win.
Take a hard look at your business and decide as early as possible what needs fixing, what needs to be nurtured and what needs to be jettisoned.
Strategy needs to evolve and is not etched in stone. Strategies should be developed by each line of business, each branch, each bank within the super community banking company. Senior management should not be the one to tell each business unit manager how to lay out the road map for success.
Look reality in the eye about your people, competitive position, structure and products. Then act decisively and quickly on that reality. It is not size that is crucial. It is creating a vision and making sure everyone working with you shares that vision.
Create a culture, then spread it. Make clear what are the key values to your company. Make sure that people know that sharing those values is not negotiable.
Employee breakfasts, town hall meetings, staff-only meetings where the boss faces the employees and answers questions on the spot are an extremely effective way to humanize management and open precious lines of communication. Listening to the people who actually do the work is the first step in learning and tapping into a staff's creativity.