Leadership is certainly a hot button issue these days, particularly for us SYL community members. On resumes, in conferences, from the mouth of our managers and executives—leadership is something that we are all striving for. Earlier this year I was given the opportunity to move into a higher role within my Credit Union, and I was left wondering what it meant to be a leader when I was still learning what my new role was all about.
First and foremost when we look at someone who is an exceptional leader, we see someone who consistently puts out quality work. This was my first hurdle in carving out leadership opportunities for this new role. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, always continue learning and take ten minutes to do your research if you are confronted with a question that you just don’t know. One of the best pieces of advice that I was given is to respond honestly in all situations. People—whether they be members or fellow employees—don’t get angry when you don’t know something. What makes them angry is when you pretend to know and end up providing poor advice. I keep this tip with me daily; it can be difficult to admit that you don’t know something, but part of growing into an exceptional leader is just that—admitting what you don’t know and using it as a learning opportunity.
My next step was to take a good look at the role that I would be filling, and making the active decision to shape what it would look like for me. I have the knowledge of those before me who have taken on this position as a guide, but the day to day workings are something that needs to be set by myself. I try to say yes wherever possible, but I also work hard to manage expectations. Most importantly, I choose gratitude. When work feels overwhelming, I remember how grateful I am to have this opportunity to shine. When one of my coworkers helps me—even in a small way—I make sure to thank them. I take the time to plan for member’s appointments, and thank them for coming in. We are all busy, so when someone gives you their time that is something to be grateful for. Being a leader boils down to being in service of those around us, and encouraging them to be their best selves.
I am lucky enough to now be able to work in four different branches, each one with a different set of members, coworkers, joys and challenges. Prairie Centre is rurally based with 13 branches, and many of our staff work exclusively in their home branch. This opportunity has allowed me to gain so much varied experience, while still remaining with the same Credit Union. It has been enlightening to see how things are done in different locations, and has clarified the big picture PCCU goals. What I have strived to bring to each branch is a stability in my positon. They know who they are getting when I walk in the door in terms of both quality of work and personality. Conflict can arise in work situations—I believe that how you handle that conflict shines a light on what sort of leader you are. Using empathy, and professionalism, builds your credibility in the workplace. Choosing to diffuse the conflict rather than encouraging it can be exactly what sets you apart as a leader.
Ultimately, I have discovered that taking on a new challenge shouldn’t derail you from your leadership aspirations. Use the tools that you are given to look at what it means to lead with a fresh perspective. Remember that leadership doesn’t make you superior than your peers; it simply allows you to serve them in a new capacity. New challenges are simply new opportunities to grow.
SYL Community Member
Prairie Centre Credit Union