The Nature Of Credit Union Leadership

If you are reading this, I assume you are interested in leadership and growth, particularly where it pertains to credit unions. So, let me ask you a few important questions:

  1. Does credit union leadership have an impact on credit union growth?
  2. What is the nature of that impact?
  3. What exactly do we even mean by “credit union leadership”?
  4. Are there any commonalities between leaders of exceptionally high performing credit unions?
  5. What behaviors, tactics, and skills should be taught to new and emerging credit union leaders?

The Foundation’s Executive Director, Dan Santangelo, Ed.D, recently launched a study with the intention of answering those questions. His objective is to add a deeper layer of understanding about credit union leadership to the training content of the Foundation’s leadership development programs as well as provide a valuable skills and characteristics profile to assist credit union board members when recruiting new leaders.

The idea for the study was born because Foundation executives desired a more substantive answer to the question, “What are the specific qualities and characteristics that make up quality credit union leadership?” Most of us have some ideas to the answer, of course. But, we can not point to specific research that provides answers based on evidence.

The qualitative study is focused on finding consensus on several key topics between credit union CEO’s whose credit unions have demonstrated significant growth over the past 5 years. The idea is that deeper insight is possible when we look at the real-world knowledge of multiple experts and search for similarities. By pulling from the insights and knowledge of successful credit union CEO’s we hope to gain insight into the leadership factors that support credit union growth and performance.

If we simplify the method greatly, it looks something like this…

If we examine the characteristics of 10 all-star basketball players and notice they are all tall, it’s reasonable to conclude that height is a factor in the creation of all-star basketball players. Now that we know height is a factor, we can ask important questions such as… Why is height important to basketball success? How tall is tall enough? How tall is too tall? What is the optimal level of height? You get the picture…

The study is being conducted using a method that allows us to identify initial common insights and then dig deeper, until we have concrete answers to the questions asked above. To accomplish this, our expert panels are given an initial set of questions. The answers to those questions are examined for common factors and insights. Follow-up questions are formed to dig deeper into those initial discoveries. This responsive process is repeated until we achieve convergence of opinion on real-world knowledge that offers tangible insights that can be applied to leadership training.

As of this writing, the study is in the preliminary stages, with researchers gathering together the panel of 18-20 experts. After an anticipated 3-4 cycles of questions, data will be analyzed and likely published in early Spring. The results will then be put to work within the Leadership Institute and the Executive Leadership Program as well as offered as a hiring tool for credit unions seeking new leadership.

The overarching goal is to publish a profile that outlines the most substantive characteristics of the leaders in many high performing credit unions within our area – information which we are sure will prove valuable to all of us.

About Dan Finerty

Dan Finerty is the Director of Marketing at the Mountain West Credit Union Association, a Credit Union champion, a Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE), and an award-winning marketer. Dan has over 14 years of marketing experience in communications, retail, packaged goods, and, of course, Credit Unions. He believes that Credit Unions have an incredible story to tell and works with some of the brightest Credit Union professionals to help promote Credit Unions to the public. Dan holds two Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing and in Management. He is also a swell guy.


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