So You Think You Can Lead?

Theresa Witham, managing editor of CUManagement
Theresa Witham Photo
Managing Editor/Publisher

3 minutes

From the editor

How do you know you’re a leader? Michael Neill, CSE, president of Michael Neill & Associates, Franklin, Tenn., addressed this question at the recent CUES Regional Event hosted at Andrews Federal Credit Union, Suitland, Md.

Do this test to know if you’re a leader, he said. “As you’re walking, look over your shoulder and see if anybody is behind you, moving in the same direction.” If so, you’re leading.

One of the core ways that leaders develop followers is through trust. Interviewed for our cover story, “Transforming Managers to Leaders” on p. 20, Neill said: “Ultimately, a good leader is asking employees to follow him or her to somewhere the leader may never even have been. Employees will not follow someone they can’t trust.”

Over the course of my career here at CUES, I’ve read a lot about what it means to be a leader. Here are some of my favorite quotes, many from the pages of this magazine:

“We don’t lead from behind, pushing people into battle,” said CUES member Steve Webb, CCE, president/CEO of Neighbors Federal Credit Union, Baton Rouge, La., in an article ( about lessons he learned while attending CEO Institute. “We need to be willing to stand out in front and make sure we’re always willing to do what we need to do to assist our team so they can assist our members.”

“Develop the courage to speak up. Alternate points of view are needed. It’s not always popular, but it’s an important skill in an industry leader because it spurs different ways of thinking, which can lead to a better end result,” said CUES Chair Kim Sponem, president/CEO of Summit Credit Union, Madison, Wis., in a CUES Skybox blog post (

 “I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘Lead, follow or get out of the way.’ ... When my team has an idea that they all support and want to pursue, generally the smartest thing I can do is get out of the way,” said CUES member Chuck Purvis, CUDE, CCE, president/CEO of Coastal Credit Union, Raleigh, N.C., and CUES’ 2017 Outstanding Chief Executive, in our October 2017 profile about him (

“Leadership begins with: How do we deport ourselves? How do we present ourselves, day after day?” said Alexander B. Horniman, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and a lead faculty member for CEO Institute III, in the spring of 2016.

“Effective leaders ... look outside themselves and seek a bigger impact in their organization and perhaps even in the world,” wrote Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR, CEO of Envision Excellence, at

One of the reasons that I like these leadership definitions is because they have nothing to do with titles. We can all strive to be leaders in our roles (, to be trustworthy, to speak up more, to step back and let others have a chance to lead, and to better serve our co-workers and members in order to create something amazing.

As Professor Horniman also said: “Each of is invited in the course of our careers to step onto that stage and lead. How you choose [to act] every day matters.”

How will you lead today?

Theresa Witham
Managing Editor/Publisher

CUES Learning Portal