Legacy and Leadership: Will your bank be around in 10, 25, 50 years?

michael's picture

Considering the recent spate of bank failures, it’s time to assess the correlation between legacy and leadership.

In his book The Intentional Legacy, David McAlvany relates his own story of familial legacy to illustrate messages that I find are also applicable in the business world:

1. Successful families have a big vision for legacy.
2. Successful families are intentional.
3. Successful families are redemptive.

This third message is his most important point and resonates with observations from our process improvement consulting engagements where we often find an us versus them atmosphere in the relationships between front and back office. Many reasons exist for this tension including differing levels of education, incumbents in a job versus a career, and conflicting priorities when making decisions to enforce the rules while serving the customer.

Just as David asserts that “there is little hope for your [family’s] legacy unless you model a culture of confession and forgiveness, where parents and children experience the peace that comes with having fractured relationships restored.”, within organizations there needs to be a renewed sense of peace that has its genesis in leadership and process. In my posts, I often point to process and process improvement as the solution for all that ills us. To embark on a process journey requires the type of leadership that will yield a long-term legacy.

To understand the type of leadership that is needed, we look for examples from the leader of an institution that has survived throughout millennia. In just 3 years, Jesus equipped his team and from that brief time they developed the Christian church that thrives today. Here is a checklist1 of skills His leadership style exemplified.

  1. Great communication skills
    - Speak with clarity every day about the mission and the plan.
    - “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’, ‘No’” (Matt. 5:37).
    - Review often with your directs: what is your role? What is not your role? How does your role impact the mission of the company?
  2. Be authentic
    - Admitting your flaws and mistakes lets your team know that “she gets it”.
    -Create a culture of openness to address performance problems.
  3. Value people
    - Be warm and approachable.
    - Make people feel they belong and that you are interested in them.
    - Demonstrate compassion and be moved to help people, the hallmark of leadership.
    - Balance strength with grace and mercy.
    - Give team members a second chance by reassessing past failures considering the lessons they learned.
  4. Increase your influence
    - See the potential in people and help them develop it.
    - Intentionally help and add value to people.
    - Create change and move people and projects along.
  5. Mentor the team to do its best work
    - Mentor at the group level to increase the sense of community and belonging.
    - Mentor with a selfless mindset, expecting to get nothing out if it personally.
    - Expect mentees to “pay it forward” and invest in others themselves.

Leadership is visual, people do what people see. People follow someone because they see an opportunity to bring added value to their lives. Great leaders make people uncomfortable with their own status quo. Great leaders challenge others to grow. Your team will never perform at levels that bring great results until they follow you for reasons other than because they are supposed to or they need the job. Helping your team and the people on it grow will gain you followers for the right reasons.

There is an old Scottish proverb: The father buys, the son builds, the grandchild sells, and his son begs. One generation labors to build wealth which is squandered by the next, leaving future generations to start from scratch. Failure to instill an intentional legacy in your family may result in shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three-to-four generations.

As banking leaders, we have a duty to our employees, customers and their future generations that the bank which supported and served the parent generation is around to serve their legacy generations. David calls this generational responsibility. With resolve, focus, and a commitment to intentionality, you can rest-in-peace assured that your bank will be here for future generations.


Agile Banking provides consulting and content management services to community banks and credit unions and can be reached at solutions@agile-banking.com.

Leadership skills checklist based on John Maxwell's "Follow the Greatest Leader", Dr. John Townsend's "Becoming the Leader Others Want to Follow", and Regi Campbell's "Mentoring Like Jesus".