March 21, 2007

News & Opinion: Leading For Growth: A Review

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 5:35 PM – Filed under: Leadership & Strategy

Authors Ray Davis and Alan Shrader did all the right things to pull me into Leading For Growth. Now, let's talk a bit about the book itself.

Davis came to Umpqua Bank from a consulting practice where he saw nothing but the same in the banking industry. The five-branch bank he took over looked like any other community bank. He decided the only way to survive what to be different. The rest of his book is his stories and beliefs.

You get the normal explicit lessons in this book. He has chapters on empowering your employees and clearing obstacles out of their way. Davis also emphasizes sweating the small stuff and protecting the brand.

It is the messages "between the lines" that are more interesting. A number of anecdotes from the book sum up his leadership style as a form of tough love. Take his reaction to plants being added to the bank's first concept store:

So, I called this VP and asked why he had put plants in the store. He said he just thought he'd warm it up a bit.

So I said, "Here's what I want done. Please call The Plant Lady and tell them to get the plants out of there."

"But Ray, we have a three-month contract on these plants."

"I don't care what we've got," I replied. "I want all those plants out of the bank by noon today."

"Well, that's pretty short notice. They probably can't get over here until later in the afternoon."

I said, "That's not a problem. Tell them the plants will all be in the parking lot." Needless to say, the company got there before noon and took the plants away. You can't protect your brand by being sloppy about details.

It sounds here like he is just being a jerk, but I think Davis is illustrating the importance of leaders protecting important aspects of company's brand and culture. Leaders often need to make big statements to show far they will go, so the stories get created and told.