In my senior year in college, I took a business law class that doled out a daunting assignment: Put a stake in the ground and say where you’re going to be at age 35 and how you’re going to get there. At that time, I was pretty unsure how my career would unfold, but I guess instinct kicked in, and I wrote about becoming president and CEO — and possibly chairman — of our family bank. Well, I wasn’t chairman at 35, but I was president and CEO, which speaks directly to what planning, drive and determination can do.
Yet, while that exercise may have set the wheels in motion for my career as a community banker, having the opportunity to work side-by-side with my grandfather is what clinched it. At a pretty young age, my grandfather instilled in me an understanding not of what we do as community bankers, but why we do it. I can remember being eight years old and going on collection calls with him, and they were compassionate, trying to help people who were struggling to pay their bills. Through his example, he taught me that community banking is about taking care of people — the families in our community. That personal connection to something bigger than myself was vital to me “coming home” to the community bank.
The sheer amount of passion and compassion that goes into community banking makes for a pretty unique business model, one I daresay we’ve all been balancing lately with COVID-19. In today’s landscape, that foundation my grandfather set remains all the more important to helping our communities get back to vibrancy. We’re still running businesses, but for all of us, our decisions go far beyond dollars and cents and extend to finding ways to contribute to the greater good.
And I see that same spirit of practical altruism reflected in the young leaders emerging today. You need look no further than this month’s 40 Under 40 awards to see community bank leaders growing to become the anchors of communities that they will help to evolve and flourish in the coming years.
Generationally speaking, I feel like we’re getting back to our roots. My grandfather, a proud part of the Greatest Generation, set the stage for me, but we are standing on the precipice of difficult times once again. This generation of emerging leaders brings a new level of humanity and activism to their work, so let’s continue to inspire them to act for the greater good, just as my grandfather did for me.
My Top Three
My top pieces of advice for rising leaders:
- Roll up your sleeves and help out your staff; it’s about the collective team.
- Find a mentor to inspire you.
- Balance business with humanity.
Connect with Noah on Twitter @NWWilcox