Evaluating Leadership Quality in Succession Planning

By Dr. Dan Singer, Ph.D

Credit unions will be experiencing unprecedented change in their leadership over the next five years.  With the current economic climate and competitive landscape, selecting and nurturing strong leadership has become imperative for credit unions’ future success.  In their succession planning credit unions must account for leadership quality.

Leadership is one of the most discussed issues in American business today.
Surprising many do not understand the concept of leadership as it relates to their own credit union and its importance to succession planning.

Leadership is the most pursued and sought after quality of any business. Leadership is perhaps the one single quality that also defines the growth, culture and prosperity of any credit union.

Although many credit unions believe they have leadership, many of these credit unions are still confused about the definition.

So what is leadership?  The simple definitions of leadership are among the terms that include: motivation of staff, effective delegation to employees, accomplishing goals with defined objectives, creation of a defined vision/mission for the company and charisma.

Specifically it is about infusing others with the energy to achieve and accomplish what they have set out to do. It is also the quality to perceive risk and change as a challenge to achieve growth and progress of a company without fear. In general, leadership possesses the ability of taking any situation and making it a positive opportunity for any business.

An effective leader can take change and make it constructive and turn it into a direction and vision for the future.

Leaders motivate and teach people how to overcome obstacles that happen on a regular basis. Leaders know how to tap into the raw talents and skills of people. The end result being alignment, a sense of achievement, a sense of belonging and a better overall feeling of one’s ability to perform.

Although leadership is a quality that can be a predisposed condition, it like any behavior becomes more improved with practice, discipline and execution.

Leadership to no one’s surprise also involves the ability of empowering others. Empowerment means promoting team participation and showing others they are included. This creates a sense of belonging, teamwork and the desire to help in achieving your goals. It is important to remember to be an effective leader you must make others feel like they are members of a team, because they are the key players to your successful leadership.

Leaders need to instill trust among there teammates and lead by example. Leadership by example shows accountability to a process and models successful behavior to the team.

Leaders know how to think out of the box and have exceptional standards. They treat people fairly and know how people want to be treated. The responsibility of the leader is to direct and respond to team’s goals.

The leader is effective when others are allowed to make mistakes and can learn from them. The leader permits people to continue the pursuit of a vision until it can be accomplished on many levels.

Leadership is not effective when one leads with fear and authority without input. Leadership involves listening and responding to people.

The key to leadership is instilling trust and loyalty in others and treating them with a sense of integrity and respect. Integrity creates loyalty in relationships and it is what holds businesses together. By respecting others the leader creates a sense of fairness and validation among those you lead. It is important for any leader to demonstrate a positive attitude toward others with a high sense of recognition. It is through this positive energy that the leader fosters a healthy culture among those you lead.

Effective leaders hold themselves and others accountable. Leaders know how to communicate and execute the overall vision for the company. When you lead by example and put all of your efforts into leading any organization, only then do you have the right to expect it from others.

Leadership means having the ability to lead and motivate others. Your behavior and actions as a leader is the catalyst that determines the spark in any company.

Take out a piece a paper and write yourself a letter and describe your leadership skills as best as possible. The key is to write spontaneously to capture your immediate thoughts. The letter is designed to characterize you. When completed read the letter and examine it for any patterns or surprises. At a later date read it and review it to see if there are any changes or behavior patterns that have remained the same. While writing the letter be aware of the differences between leadership and management.

Keep a weekly or daily journal. Track your leadership progress and your difficulties. This is an excellent to measure your interactions at work. Feel free to share your results with another to gather input on the information you gather with each journal. Keep in mind that self reporting information to oneself and getting input from others is an excellent method to learn and refine interpersonal skills.

Take your leadership ability and rate yourself on a scale of 1-5, 1 excellent, 2 above average, 3 average, 4 below average and 5 poor. You can measure progress yourself and also ask a peer or supervisor to rate you as well. This rating technique can help identify areas of strength and improvement. Rating yourself is with another individual’s feedback is recommended since others see what we cannot readily identify in ourselves.