This blog post is part of the 2015 Next Top Credit Union Executive competition originally posted August 2015.

My three younger boys are in Boy Scouts. They have a plan for the scout badges they earn and how to apply those badges in daily life. Recently, they learned CPR and how to safely start a campfire. Our dinner topics include conversations on how to apply all of what they are learning to who they are becoming as 11-year-olds and how to connect the dots between today’s experiences and their unfolding personal lives.

Today’s leaders have many learning challenges that are not singular episodic events. Once learned, then done—not really! We earn a “badge” (recognition, acknowledgment) because of a developed level of competence in a knowledge area. Blending the knowledge from multiple badges and diverse applications is the growing challenge in complex environments. Three badges are on my mind recently: the badges of humility, competence, and experience.

The badge of humility: this badge is unique because it is antecedent to effective socialized leadership. Credit-union leadership is a form of socialized leadership. A socialized leader is self-effacing with stimulation, suggestion, and inspiration. A sense of self is required in a multitude of diverse contexts in order to prevent excessive self-focus. Simply put, the humble leader

  • realizes that no one has all the answers
  • creates space for others to contribute
  • asks for and accepts generative feedback
  • admits mistakes and recommits
  • empowers others to learn and develop
  • enacts courage
  • takes personal risks for the greater good
  • holds employees responsible for results
  • creates space for innovative behavior
  • engages in team citizenship
  • goes beyond the call of duty

The badge of competence: Leaders today are challenged with moving beyond a single functional competency set. To effectively lead in the future, each one of us needs a range of competencies in multidisciplinary functions. A sufficient level of knowledge and skills is necessary to be able to ask powerful questions, coach employees to be high performers, and collaborate cross-functionally. This does not mean you have to run an asset/liability model, fund loans, be an expert in governance, know how to program, and more. What it does mean is that you need to have a working knowledge of how the most critical functions in the organization support and need each other for overall success. It means productively using and generatively blending multiple knowledge areas.

The badge of experience: Simply put, your experience is the sum of all that you practice. If you practice showing up every day to just do your job, that is most likely working for you. If you show up every day to do your job with a high level of commitment and engagement, continually learning and developing others, then you are practicing humility and gaining increased competence and experience. What are you practicing?

As you walk into work everyday, challenge yourself to keep learning and practicing the badges you have earned, because every day is different, and a higher level of practice is needed as you engage and interact with multiple perspectives.

Deedee Myers, PhD