Remember that childhood game follow-the-leader where one person directed, and the others walked in line? Well, it was not a favorite of mine, and I could never quite pinpoint why.
As I’ve moved forward in my career, I realized what bothered me: The leader in that game dictated the path, and others blindly followed suit. There was no room for creative collaboration or team dynamics. It was cut and dry: Either you were a leader and got to call the shots, or you were a follower and had to step in line.
That approach doesn’t line up at all with the reality of true leadership. A good leader listens and learns from their team, becoming stronger not by managing singularly, but by evolving concepts and direction based on group input. Leaders know that each individual’s strengths complement their own. Well-executed leadership is less about marching to your own beat and more about creating a well-choreographed team play.
That’s why I’m heartened this month as I look at our second-annual 40 Under 40 awards. These young professionals have the expertise that makes them distinct from one another, but they share a common quality: They are rising leaders. They are strengthening the nature of community banking by bettering themselves, their teams and their organizations. And, they are doing it with gusto — by focusing on coming together for a greater good, for the strength of their communities. This contagious enthusiasm is also why I look forward to our LEAD FWD Summit each year. As of this writing, we’re not certain if this year’s event in September will take place in-person or virtually. But we do know it will continue to assemble ambitious, results-oriented community bankers as they expand their leadership journeys. Young professionals recognize LEAD FWD as the key event at which to learn the strategies and insights that will shape the future of community banking.
As we look to the future, we’re still faced with a world of uncertainty, courtesy of COVID-19. Yet, despite the challenges over the past few months, we have led our communities toward prosperity. By going beyond what’s required of us in navigating the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and disbursing Economic Impact Payments (EIPs), we have dug deep in supporting our communities. From blood drives and business donations to loan forgiveness and the renegotiation of contract terms, community banks have supported their customers in creative ways.
That’s because we advance our communities not by controlling the path, but by ensuring our customers’ voices are heard. They know they can rely on us when it’s most needed. I’d say that’s the sign of a true leader.