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Leadership & Results: A Study of Canadian Credit Unions

This brief examines the differences in leadership behavior and effectiveness among Canada's largest credit unions. It looks at transactional and transformational leadership behaviors to provide insight into the topic of leadership.

Executive Summary

This report on leadership behaviors at large Canadian credit unions should be understood on two levels: First, that good leaders combine transactional and transformational traits; second, that training and talent rotation are recommended to nurture both types of traits. The findings in this report are anonymized, and it explores a more important question: What makes a good credit union leader good, and how can you improve leadership at your own credit union? It doesn’t matter that the respondents were Canadian. Credit union leaders in any country should take note.

What is the research about?

In early 2012, 22 of Canada’s 30 largest credit unions participated in a research study of leadership and results. The study included the collection and analysis of 485 leadership surveys, as well as growth in membership and assets under management (AUM) data for each credit union, in order to answer three core questions: 

  • Are there differences in leadership behavior and leadership effectiveness across the credit unions? 
  • What leadership behaviors do the most effective leaders exhibit?
  • Is there a relationship between leadership effectiveness and financial results?

What are the credit union implications?

Large Canadian credit unions demonstrate solid levels of both transformational and transactional leadership behaviors. Effective leaders use both transformational and transactional leadership behaviors, and there is a positive relationship between leadership effectiveness and financial results. These findings for large Canadian credit unions lead to the recommendations below, which should improve leadership at all credit unions:

  • Integrate transactional and transformational leadership into existing talent practices.
  • Offer training programs and peer coaching options to develop key leadership behaviors.
  • Boost new role/assignment opportunities.
  • Consider the benefits of becoming larger.