Banking Leaders: Are They BORN or MADE?

Bob DiCosola, EVP, Human Resource/Training & Development/Risk Management

Robert DiCosola

As an adjunct professor at a local college, I always ask that question as part of the
curriculum for the HR management and business classes I teach. The answer is almost always the same: About 50 percent of the class feels leaders are born, and the other 50 percent believes leaders are made.

That split is actually quite predictable. Experts in this field note that about 15 percent of executives (the top of the bell curve) are born leaders who start out strong and get better over time. Another 15 percent (the bottom of the bell curve) are executives who never want to be leaders or who are never going to be good leaders. The middle of the bell curve (everyone else, or 70 percent of executives) is where the potential to make leaders lies!

A perfect case study for this blog involves my two sons, Joe and Rob. Joe, 22 years old and a recent Audio Engineer grad, is humble, sympathetic, patient, empathetic, a great listener, and a young man of high integrity. Rob, 17 years old and a senior in high school (and drum major in the Batavia marching band this year), is a great communicator, consensus-builder, coach, motivator, problem identifier and problem solver. All of these are outstanding traits for a leader of people. But Joe would rather have a root canal than lead, while Rob naturally leads his peer group like the Pied Piper of Batavia!

 So Rob is at the top of the bell curve and Joe is at the bottom. What does that mean for the 70 percent?

For those executives who have aspirations to manage and lead, a good place for them to start is to train a laser focus on their company’s core values and. Then they can work to hone the leadership competencies necessary to embodying those values.

At Old Second, our core values drive the competencies we require for potential leaders. They are:

  • Solve It
  • Own It
  • Collaborate
  • Innovate
  • Keep Growing
  • Walk the Talk

The corresponding leadership competencies are to:

  • Support strategic growth goals by being a visionary, strategic planner, as well as a sales/service coach and motivator; a consensus and unity builder; and a manager who understands profitability and is willing to serve as a change agent when needed.
  • Support the image of a trusted community banker by leading through example and acting with integrity, trust, and credibility, while being inclusiveness and demonstrating strong community ties.
  • Support ongoing development vs. stagnation through the continuous development of yourself and staff; offering operational and technical expertise; and serving as an example of a well-rounded banker.

As a senior management team, we strongly believe that respect and leadership are mutually inclusive. We further believe that managers who serve as role models of ethics and integrity and who gain respect through credibility, rather than through intimidation, make the best ambassadors for a community bank.

In discussing career growth with our employees, we always make sure that they understand our overall philosophy:

“Career development is the responsibility of the incumbent; management’s role is to provide the tools and opportunities to make it happen.”

Ultimately, Where Your Career Leads Is Up to You

The question is not whether you are a naturally born leader or not. The question you need to ask yourself is: o you have the drive, focus and perseverance to become one?

It’s of the utmost importance to create your own personal blueprint. Identify and address opportunities for improvement as they arise, while maximizing your strengths. Then, partner with your boss to make what comes next happen!

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