Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Leadership in Action - Mark Turner CEO WSFS Bank

Mark Turner is the President and CEO of Wilmington Savings Fund Society which is headquartered in Wilmington, DE.  WSFS has over 40 retail branches, 650 employees, the normal array of financial services, and a healthy balance sheet.  The healthy balance sheet is unusual for a bank given the housing crash, but WSFS was very conservative in their real estate financing during the run-up to the bursting of the bubble.  Given that WSFS is regarded as one of the top organizations in Delaware and recently won an award for Leadership within the organization, I took the opportunity to meet the CEO, Mark Turner, at a customer appreciation visit in Lewes, DE.

In ten minutes, this is what I saw and felt.

First - Mark is out there.  Being a CEO is about contact; you need to see and feel the customers, the vibe of the staff, the conditions of the operations.  He was there to shake hands and thank the customers - he did and the customers appreciated the presence.

Second - He listened to his staff and encouraged action.  There were a number of conversations with staff members who were coming and going during the event.  Mark took the time to connect with his team, understand their situation, elicit an idea, and encourage a next step.  This is an important process for CEOs to connect at a personal level, get a feel for how people feel about the company, give guidance on how to turn their feelings into progress, and by doing so, improve the morale and performance of the company.

Third - Mark sought market information.  Mark and I talked for about five minutes.  When he found out I had a real estate development business, he wanted to know what was happening in my market.  He zeroed in on key questions very quickly.  He was doing his research.

Fourth - He felt like a good guy.  This cannot be understated.  Leadership being is more important than leadership doing in defining the tone for a culture.  Leaders need to trust the senior leaders; they will mirror their leadership characteristics and leadership styles.  After meeting Mark, it isn't surprising that the company won an award for leadership style.

Finally - Mark has studied leadership formally and informally throughout his career.  He has an advance degree in leadership to go along with an MBA.  He continued to evolve as a leader through intentional pursuit of focused experiential seminars and internal evaluation.  He's serious about becoming and staying a good leader.  Again, given his commitment, this is why the company takes the art, science, and practice of leadership to heart.  The CEO models what is important; leadership is important to Mark and it shows.

Kudos to Mark and his team for setting an example of what is possible in an organization committed to sustainable leadership development throughout the organization.

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