So you want to be a CEO?

Tomorrow's LeadersLast month, an article I wrote on “Tomorrow’s Leaders” landed on the cover of The Federal Credit Union magazine, NAFCU’s bimonthly publication. Back in August, when I was interviewing credit union CEOs for the piece, I shared some of their “secrets” here on The Wayward Journey.

But as I noted then, there really aren’t any secrets to great leadership. The advice I heard from these successful leaders consisted mostly of common-sense, time-tested principles that you can apply to your own life and business, whether you work for a small firm, a large enterprise or just want to improve yourself.

Among the traits of great leaders: They never stop learning; they are good at building relationships; they possess well-honed people skills; they have a clear vision for their organization; and they are highly effective communicators.

When we put the piece together, we decided to include a sidebar called “So You Want to Be a CEO?” While the focus is obviously on credit unions, I think the advice applies to anyone who wants to get ahead. See how many of these you are doing.

So You Want to Be a CEO?

(From The Federal Credit Union magazine, November-December 2014)

Looking to move up? Read the 10 tips below from the leaders we interviewed.

  1. Practice good communications skills. Do you understand different styles of communication? Are you a good listener? Are you good at building relationships?

  2. Round out your experience at the credit union. Learn all you can about compliance, operations and lending. Develop relationships with other departments. Find out what they do and how you might assist them.

  3. Get some financial knowledge. You don’t have to be a CFO, but you do need to know your way around a balance sheet and income statement. You need to understand credit union ratios and be familiar with asset/liability management (ALM).

  4. Do your best work. You’ll get noticed if you’re willing to go the extra mile and consistently perform at a high level. Volunteer for new assignments. Have a passion for what you do.

  5. Be a lifelong learner. Broaden your horizons. Embrace new ideas. Attend conferences, take a management class, read industry trade publications and business books, sign up for webcasts. Always ask questions and seek to know more.

  6. Network with your peers and leaders. Seek out a mentor, or mentor someone else. Collaborate with others to help solve organizational problems.

  7. Increase your EQ (emotional intelligence). Work on developing your empathy, self-awareness, motivation and social skills. Pay attention to how others perceive you and whether you are communicating well. How engaged are you? Are you contributing to team building?

  8. Stay informed about credit union trends and industry issues.

  9. Have a vision and purpose for what you do. Keep the mission of helping your members foremost in your mind.

  10. Ask others for feedback and to provide you with their candid assessment of your work and management style. Better yet, seek out that person who is most critical of your work, and ask them how you can improve.

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