I’ve done a fair amount of strategic planning over the years. Mostly facilitating, some participating. On either side of the board table I always went in with this filter: How can we thrive? How do we plan for overwhelming success? Lines out the door, phones ringing off the wall, media coverage out the butt kind of success. Sure, some people look at me like I’m insane – especially in this economy.

But I’ll bet Steve Jobs thinks that way. So does Tony Hsieh. Even Ford is optimistic right now. Southwest Airlines posted another profitable quarter. Starbucks has righted their ship.

How about your credit union? Doom and gloom? Still pissed off at the corporate assessments? Held hostage by your DP vendor’s inabilities? Do you blame NCUA for your lack of innovation? Afraid of losing your job?

According to Jim Collins, author of Good to Great,  if you are not a Level 5 Leader, you will likely not thrive in this recession. A level 5 leader “builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility plus professional will.”

Take 2 minutes and 35 seconds to watch this clip of Jim describing what it means to be a Level 5 leader. I got choked up.

Tony Hsieh does not have a corner office on the 32nd floor. Instead he parks his Level 5 butt in a cubicle in the middle of his call center.

Steve Jobs quietly took sick leave to battle a severe illness while still introducing the iPad to initial media criticism.

Howard Schultz admitted publicly that Starbucks grew too big, too fast. He lost sight of their original vision and posted his strategic plan on their website so the public could hold him accountable.

Yet in the credit union land we see massive mergers, not just among member credit unions but now trade associations and of course the corporates are seeking this shelter from the storm. Credit unions continue to be followers rather than leaders when it comes to innovation.

Edward Filene was a Level 5 leader. What would he tell us today? He put cause before his own ego. He made sacrifices physically, professionally and financially for the movement. Because of his leadership credit unions did not just survive the Great Depression, history showed us they thrived.

Are you a Level 5?

Ultimately our members will decide if THEIR financial cooperative will survive or thrive.

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