By Randy Karnes
If you were to ask past credit union leaders—or those from any industry for that matter—most are likely to agree that approval seeking is not the mark of a good leader. It engenders thoughts of the vain leader surrounded by yes-men who never challenge the leader’s ideas.
So how do you coach a new generation of leaders who are growing up in a world where social media and Likes reign?
Future leaders do not need to be “liked” or garner approval as their strongest talents—they need to hone their skills as learners, influencers, and debaters of value. I am not sure that social media does any of that for most of its participants. Can you really learn anything from tracking manipulated, advertised opinions and Likes via social media today? How do we push our leaders to ensure that they are building the talents and drive to build learning organizations and voices that can inspire all of us?
Being a lifetime student does not come from being agreed with, it comes from the challenges of opposing viewpoints and then learning to creatively reconcile that dissent. When you are fearful of rejection, you will insulate yourself and your beliefs and ideas to the point that learning stops and talents wither.
This is not a new problem; we see it in organizations that do not share their business plans with members, who no longer believe the market cares about their hopes for cooperative ownership, and who have shifted to the idea that consumer acceptance and Likes about the nuances of today’s financial service tactics are more important than what separates us from look-alike-competitors who sell the same nuances.
The Echo Chamber
While the term “echo chamber” may be approaching overuse, it is one that the credit union industry should be wary of. As the agents of our credit union member-owners, we have created our professional and third-party commentator echo chambers since the first day we pushed our volunteers out of the operations.
We need to guard ourselves from accepting and pushing our future leaders into an even bigger acceptance of the kind of social media echo chambers that drive generic, homogenized, risk-free strategies. We need to encourage future leaders to think critically, hunt out dissent, and look for the teachings that come from debate and alternate ideas. We need them to hone their skills at negotiating with ideas counter to their own and influence the future from what they learn.
We need to highlight where we fell victim to wanting the “Likes” of the NCUA, the molds of our trades, and the limited scope of our agreements with each other, and challenge them to debate and learn from the energy of disagreement on the way to new ideas implemented.
Randy Karnes is CEO of CU*Answers.