Leading with a Purpose


My first career before training development was in banking, and for most of my training career I have supported the financial services industry.  My history goes back to the infamous savings and loan crisis in the late 80’s when too many were going out of business because leadership had a different purpose for the company than traditional banking services.

I had a conversation recently with an associate in the banking industry about a particular bank.  They are a mid-sized community bank that is being staffed with an interesting group of leaders with a very light background in of all things, banking.  Most are from the investor industry and we discussed how they are making decisions that are short-term in scope.  Bankers make short-term decisions, but most are long-term thinkers and planners.

Bankers want customers to stay with them for life, and the life of their children and grandchildren.  Most go out of their way to create programs and products that make this relationship last and create referral business.  Banking often makes every decision based on this purpose with outcomes that keep customers.

So what happens if a bank is being led with a different purpose?  If the purpose is for stock holders to make money, then this is a great purpose to lead with if you are a stock holder.  But if you are not a stock holder and only a customer, while management is leading with a purpose it is not one that will benefit your interests.

I’m always a little leery of any bank that incentivizes employees with stock, because the decisions being made are company focused not customer focused.  I personally would not bank with any bank that is not focused on my needs as a customer.  But that decision is mine to make for my needs.

While most companies lead with a purpose, we all must decide if that purpose meets our needs.  In this particular bank, the leaders are investors by nature not bankers.  Which means their purpose is to make money for themselves and the stock holder.  They are leading with a purpose.  But if I am a customer, I will not be well served to bank at this institution and should choose a bank that is leading with a purpose that aligns with my needs as a customer instead.

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