Becoming an effective leader takes years of perseverance, patience, and practice. It’s a continuous process of trial and error. As a quality or trait, leadership is a culmination of distinct actions that build up over time. One of those actions is seeking the sponsorship of other proven leaders.
The credit union system is small enough that several organizations have become leadership forges, where a farsighted sponsor CEO has consistently trained, promoted, and prepared multiple leaders who have gone on to become CEOs themselves.
People commonly confuse sponsorship with mentorship—and for good reason. Both mentors and sponsors are a source of career guidance for junior- to senior- level talent. However, there’s a clear distinction between the two: Mentorship tends to focus on skill development and can take place at any level in an organization, while sponsorship tends to focus on career development of current senior leaders.
In its simplest form, the sponsor–protégé relationship is beneficial for both parties, with sponsor CEOs being afforded an opportunity to cultivate talent and protégés receiving invaluable on-the-ground experience. For any aspiring credit union CEO, having an early- career sponsor will open doors and, more importantly, create the framework for effective leadership.