Article originally appeared in mbaBanking magazine

Digital disruption is poised to change everything we know about banking. In fact, the disruption is already happening! From community lenders to big banks, everyone is hustling to figure out how to adapt to these changes and gain an edge on the competition. 

Effective leadership is always crucial for banking success. However, it’s doubly important during these times of turbulence.  

Digital Disruption is an Opportunity for Growth – if Leaders Go First 

While digital disruption is certainly a cause for concern for many community banks, it’s also an enormous opportunity for growth. The leadership we see from community banks in the coming months could easily determine whether these organizations capitalize on these market trends and rapidly expand. 

There’s one key leadership idea that I wanted to share for bank leaders as they navigate digital disruption. It’s the idea that leaders need to “go first. In other words, they need to commit to a course of action and make sacrifices for new initiatives before anyone else on the team. Let me explain a little further. 

Every Team Needs a Leader Who Goes First

Community banks need to rapidly and quickly evolve to address trends associated with digital disruption. It is crucial that they can gracefully and effectively introduce new initiatives. 

However, initiating successful change is difficult at any organization. Change can be scary and challenging, as it forces employees to learn new systems, processes, adopt new mindsets, and so forth. One of the biggest hurdles is getting the “buy-in” of everyone on the team. If people don’t believe in the change and truly visualize the end goal, your initiative will fail before it even starts. 

In order to get their teams to fully buy-in to new changes, leaders need to go first. They need to be the first ones at the organization to put in the long hours for new initiatives, and they need to demonstrate that they are willing to make sacrifices for the new course of action.   

When we demonstrate that we believe in our new plan 110% and are willing to make sacrifices for it, we set an example for the rest of the team. Our teams will follow our example – effective leaders act accordingly. 

Effective Leaders Embrace That Everything Worthwhile is Uphill

Going first isn’t easy, but who said leadership was a piece of cake? Banking leaders need to understand (and embrace!) that everything worthwhile is uphill. If we want to achieve meaningful progress, if we want to hit ambitious goals and build something great, we have to be willing to put in some elbow grease. Anything worth doing comes with a price of time, effort, and resources. 

Leaders at banks need to recognize and embrace this reality before they “go first.” When they understand that this initial sacrifice is worth the end results, they can charge into that uphill climb with vigor and passion that will inspire the rest of the team. 

Leading our organizations through a transition period can be daunting as well, but we need to acknowledge that transitions are necessary to realize our true potential. If we never take riskwith new changes and adapt to an evolving market, we will never bring out the best in our organizations. 

When leaders embrace that sacrifices and risks are worth it, their teams will too! 

Are You Ready to Go First?

Banking leaders need to see digital disruption for what it is – an unprecedented opportunity for growth. If the leaders of community banks are willing to step up to the plate and go first for their teams, their organizations will crush their goals and enjoy tremendous expansion. 

The question is…are you ready to go first? 

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