What Makes a Good Credit Union CEO? The answer isn’t as simple as you might think – it’s not just about having the right skills or experience. As with any business, a CEO must have the necessary technical expertise and understanding of the business in question. But beyond that, what really sets them apart from their peers is another matter.
It takes an exceptional person to lead an institution that truly belongs to its members. A good credit union CEO is someone who understands that their role is not to impose their vision on an organization, but rather to seek input from various stakeholders within the organization and to give stakeholders keys the means to lead in their own fields.
The Great CEO Vs. The Great Communicator
Ask different people what makes an effective business leader and you’ll hear many different answers. But there are two basic types of great credit union CEOs: the great CEO and the great communicator.
The Great CEO is good with numbers, knows how to manage operations, and has a keen sense of strategy. He or she is also a good communicator who can sell this strategy to the board and members of the credit union, as well as motivate employees to execute it while keeping them happy and productive.
The Great Communicator is not necessarily the financial genius that the Great CEO may be. This type of CEO knows how to present a positive public image of the credit union and how to promote membership growth through community engagement, social media, and other channels that reach potential members.
Both types of leaders can be effective, but they must work with their team members in unique ways to achieve the same goals. For example, a CEO without a strong background in finance may rely on the CFO to help guide the organization.
Attributes of a Great Credit Union CEO
When considering the best candidate for the job, consider the following attributes that make a great credit union CEO:
1. They take care of their teams
A good CEO is a good listener and makes sure their teammates are also listened to. The best CEOs know that their team members aren’t just people they work with; they are also people who may need guidance and assistance in managing their positions within the organization. They are also leaders who need to be heard.
A CEO who takes care of the team will ultimately take care of the members of the organization.
2. They meet the needs of their members
The best credit union CEOs understand the needs of their members — even if it means making a shift in strategy that might not seem popular in the short term. If a service isn’t working for them or making money for the organization, it just needs to go away or undergo some changes.
It may not be easy, but one thing you can always count on in banking is change, especially when it comes to technology and innovation. It’s up to the CEO to lead the organization through these changes, make the tough decisions, and focus on what really matters.
3. They’re not caught up in the daily grind
Great CEOs don’t get bogged down in the details of day-to-day operations. They use their time wisely by focusing on high-level strategy, improving results, and developing their team members so they can lead effectively at all levels.
4. They accept the risk
Being a great credit union CEO means taking risks. Leaders who lack the ability to take risks often settle for incremental improvements and miss opportunities for major breakthroughs.
The good news is that these leaders have many opportunities to take risks – from launching products that provide solutions to member problems, to improving operational efficiencies, to merging with other credit unions. and more.
5. They enable employees to succeed
A great CEO of a credit union realizes that the organization can only succeed if all employees are successful. This means setting clear expectations, then supporting and rewarding those who meet or exceed their goals.
The CEO steps in when needed to remove impediments or provide additional resources, but gives employees the freedom to do their jobs.
6. They are financially responsible
Credit unions are not-for-profit, which means they have to be very careful with the money they receive from members. A great credit union CEO understands this and is careful not to waste money on frivolous programs or wasteful spending.
At the same time, a great CEO understands that spending money wisely is sometimes necessary for the good of the organization and won’t let the false economy get in the way of success.
7. They don’t play politics
Credit unions are member-owned cooperatives. All members have a say in how they are managed and how their money is used, and many people will want to be involved in important decisions that directly affect them.
A good credit union CEO knows that this is part of running a cooperative and will consider everyone’s opinions without letting politics influence decision-making.
8. They are collaborative board members
Great credit union CEOs understand the importance of a collaborative board and know that they need to be team players as well as leaders.
Understanding the Makings of a Great Credit Union CEO
Credit unions are complex financial institutions, but what makes them all different are the people who serve their members. They are not driven by earnings or stock prices; instead, credit union CEOs focus on improving members’ lives and building strong communities.
A good CEO is one who understands the needs of their members and works hard to meet those needs. CEOs must be able to communicate effectively with staff and members to ensure everyone is working towards common goals.
They must also be able to make timely decisions based on data analysis as well as their own instincts as to what is best for the organization in short and long term situations. These skills will help them lead by example so that others want to follow suit when it comes time to change within an organization.
By understanding what makes a great credit union CEO, organizations can hire or promote the right people for the job, moving them forward with confidence.
Shawn Cole is president and co-founder of Cowen Partners Executive Search in Vancouver, Washington.