While we have focused on the two expired terms at the NCUA Board, these are not the only important leadership positions in the cooperative movement. At the moment NASCUS is seeking a new leader; CUNA Mutual has installed a new CEO from their internal ranks, and CUNA will be seeking a successor to Bill Cheney. Cooperatives as member sponsored and supported organizations uniquely benefit from leadership because of their democratic foundations. Effective leadership is more than management. It requires mobilization around a vision that both understands the past and the legacies passed forward to future generations; it also provides inspiration, hope and passion about the future.
Below are some comments from Randy Karnes, CEO of CU*Answers in response to the announcement of the CUNA opening. However, his challenge in filling this role would also apply to NASCUS, CUNA Mutual and other vacancies in the cooperative system.
Needed: A Change of Direction and Disruptive Force
I could not agree more with this article (CUNA Search More Than Just Replacing Cheney – CU Times 3/17) that by picking a new leader, CUNA needs to change its direction and drive to be a disruptive force in the financial services community. While Heather Anderson is primarily focused on the viewpoint of Millennials, I think CUNA must also break from recent tradition and return to being the catalyst for local organizations to thrive. In other words, move away from the elegant lobbyist tactics that massage the status quo of both those who fuel contributions and those who feed on them politically. Much like our country’s politics of late, CUNA now seems to feel that a dominating centralized control of the message is the best path to scaled influence and for getting things done. But cooperatives are not about a one-size- fits- all message or vision impressed on everyone disregarding the diversity and unique opportunities of our peers.
CUNA needs leadership that can fuel local enthusiasm centered on the individuals in every state, push for states to build local responses and economies that drive cooperatives, and speak out for the uniqueness of what cooperatives mean to our economic system and to the people that personify them. Lead on inspiring everyone to live and own one. CUNA needs to drive the message of customer-owned efforts and push that message that we are different into every lobbyist message we take to the wall hoping for success.
Break with the Mechanics of Banking
The new leader should take from the Millennial’s passion to look for new solutions from the networked world, and redefine itself and our trade’s role in our industry’s future. CUNA could be a voice for a shift in the way we organize, invest in solutions, and design solutions. Not through their sociopolitical, lowest common denominator, conflict avoidance-mindset; but instead to align with the most entrepreneurial spirit it can inspire in us all. It must push us to invest, to start new firms, to align as customer-owners in a new way that challenges regulation and examiners to keep up. That inspires politicians to see the power in customer-owner lobbies, and to allow us all to use the promise of the firms Millennials highlight as the future of financial services. “Break with the mechanics of banking” and align with the mechanics of new economies from small towns to the largest, while recognizing that these examples will be diverse in the speed of change based on the ownership’s will and not just through a central plan’s approved vision for what is relevant or the standard.
A Leader in Diversification & Catalyst for Cooperative Success
The next CUNA leader must marry the success of the old credit union industry with the promise of the new one by breaking the mold and rushing towards consumer power models, and not the false promise of consumer protection baked in Washington. It would be better for CUNA to split up and vest a hundred voices on this task than to merge and further align us all with the passive, quiet, and manipulated social construct it spends our money on today! The new leader should not be a consolidation manager, but a leader in diversification, start-ups, and a catalyst for cooperative financial power and success. Not through CUNA’s power, but through the power it ensures in credit unions.
Now is a time of transition; a time to look at the role of our institutions, the intent of leadership, and the hopes of customer-owners to build win-wins as both owners and customers. No one should be immune from the wave of redesign, challenges to their intent, or to their responses to the emergence of new models for collaboration and cooperative execution if they wear the tag of owner, customer, or industry professional in the CU industry – fire up your voice!
The most important step in the process is his call for dialogue-fire up your voice-so that we can all learn from each other’s perspectives what kind of leadership we are looking for.
Randy has started the dialogue. Heather Anderson, CU Times editor, has provided a valuable perspective. Now it is your turn. Please send your comments about what leadership of cooperatives requires today.