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Leadership in uncertain times

Leadership can be defined in many ways. The attributes of a good leader have been illustrated throughout history. 

One notable illustration is on the campus of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where twelve granite benches contain key virtues of leadership that, for many of us, are how we think of leadership and those that lead.

  • Compassion
  • Courage
  • Dedication
  • Determination 
  • Dignity
  • Discipline
  • Integrity
  • Loyalty
  • Perseverance
  • Responsibility 
  • Service
  • Trust

During volatile and uncertain times such as these, the skills of a leader will be tested continually. 

Each of us provide leadership every day in a variety of ways, including in all that we do and say. Communication and transparency are the drivers in order to obtain collaboration and ownership. Success will be achieved by our ability to remain agile and willingness to “pivot” and adapt quickly.

With each generation, leaders are challenged to inspire and communicate with those that they lead. 

As leaders, business partners, and community supporters, we are charged to take ownership and be accountable. Developing strong and lasting relationships is a result of positive leadership. A sense of humility, a willingness to listen, and the commitment to leverage our networks without expectation of return, are key skills during uncertain times.

The Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison promotes principles of avoiding mindlessness, being compassionate, resiliency, and generosity. 

They have written that mental wellbeing and managing stress are essential if one wishes to lead and create a collaborative environment and achieve meaningful, sustainable long- term goals. 

Mindlessness, distraction or circumstantial disruption which are not relevant will result in a breakdown of communication. An effective leader will be cognizant of these items and keep the team on task with a clear understanding of the objective.

Unforeseen challenges can disrupt even the best of plans. 

Resiliency is not defined by how much you can withstand but the speed upon which you rebound, or shift direction given changes in circumstances. During these unforeseen challenges, compassion is the ability to listen and respect differing points of view. A humble leader can drive consensus resulting in a greater sense of accomplishment and ownership.

A strong financial institution is rooted in all these same fundamentals of leadership with its banking relationships. Volatile and uncertain times demand our focus, passion, and commitment to principles in order to be an effective advisor with business partners and support success in the ups and downs of a business and economic cycle. 

Whether clients or employees, both need to know you are there for them especially during these chaotic and stressful times.

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Richard S. Hensley is president of the southeast Wisconsin market for National Exchange Bank & Trust. Since 1983, Dick has been active in the Milwaukee commercial banking market, bringing a passion and strong commitment to closely-held and family-owned business. He is a 1976 graduate of the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, is married, has four children and three grandchildren. He is active in the community, including: a director of EconomicsWisconsin; former President – St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Greendale; and Roundtable Chair and member of COSBE – MMAC. National Exchange Bank & Trust is a family-owned financial institution serving business clients across Southeastern Wisconsin. With in excess of $2.5 billion in assets and strong balance sheet, the Bank brings tremendous resources to support the credit, treasury management, investment, and trust requirements.

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