A Banker's Guide to Successful Leadership: Learn to Appreciate and Motivate Individuals

By Smith, Roger W.; Sapp, Richard W. | American Banker, September 11, 1984 | Go to article overview

A Banker's Guide to Successful Leadership: Learn to Appreciate and Motivate Individuals


Smith, Roger W., Sapp, Richard W., American Banker


All of us have high expectations and aspirations for ourselves and others. Leaders also have the capability to amplify these feelings in others and motivate individuals toward common bank goals. They recognize the value to the organization of individual effort and the absolute necessity of making individuals feel positive about themselves through the creation of high self-esteem and confidence.

Effective leadership has been defined as "effective followship." Leaders can only operate with people and through people; there are no leaders without followers.

The creation of a desire to follow requires that leaders recognize each individual's desire to satisfy his own needs by his own actions. Doing this is a supportive role under the umbrella of the bank's business mission and objectives is the challenge of effective executive management.

As such, leadership is more than rational business judgment. It combines the bank's strategic focus with the psychological aspects of motivating the bank's most critical asset, its human resources.

Much has been written about various management styles. The range of possible leadership behavior patterns includes autocratic, democratic, participative, entrepreneurial, negotiator, laissez faire, simply muddling through, and theory x, y, and z. Our purpose is to discuss a few of the key characteristics of effective bank leaders, and more importantly, some of the techniques they employ. Truly effective leaders change style to suit the situation.

Broadly speaking, outstanding business leaders are articulate, competitive, persuasive, committed, and not afraid to take calculated risks. Creative bank leaders that we have observed also:

* Have a strong sense of personal and business values;

* Generate excitement;

* Support their employees fully;

* Set a clear example for others by their own actions;

* Are creative in approaching difficult issues;

* Develop a strong identity with their customers;

* Set challenging goals for themselves and others;

* Are consistent, open, fair, and firm;

* Remain focused on economic value;

* Are unafraid of taking calculated risks;

* Constantly seek new and creative leadership techniques.

Finding the proper motivational techniques is critical to the long term success of any financial institution. We have noted that the techniques used by outstanding bank leaders exhibit one or more of five dimensions. The effective leaders know how to:

* Develop keen sense of purpose;

* Establish effective communication;

* Appreciate and recognize the work of others;

* Build a value-driven, results-oriented organization;

* Create a high esprit de corps. Keen Sense of Purpose

Leadership is closely aligned with a clear business identity and a strong sense of bank purpose should develop from the institution's strategic plan and the formulation of the bank's mission, objectives, and goals. It must be active in character and serve as a rallying point for the organization.

The most visible example would be Citicorp's often stated strategic formula of the five "I's" -- institutional, investment, and individual banking; information processing, and insurance services. This statement of purpose is clear, easy to understand, and easy to remember.

The capacity to create and communicate a compelling vision of the desired state of affairs is the first dimension of creative leadership. The effective leader frames this sense of purpose in a manner that induces commitment and creates a motivated following. Ultimately, the result is a strong and widespread feeling of individual self-confidence and self-motivation.

An underlying theme to essentially all successful leadership techniques is effective communication, which is accomplished by presenting ideas so people can understand them, starting with communicating the organization's purpose. …

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