To the editor: "Changing of the guard at Bay Ridge FCU with appointment of new CEO," April 20: I don’t know Bay Ridge Credit Union, their board, former CEO Gene Brody, or new CEO Anthony Grigos. However, I assume Brody and Grigos are great colleagues who hold each other in high regard. Having said that, I don’t believe it’s good or proper for a retiring CEO to become a board or supervisory committee member of their credit union upon retirement. The inability of a retiring CEO to hang up his or her hat is a disservice to the incoming CEO, employees, and the membership.
New CEOs, even if they are well known by the board and were promoted from within the credit union, need time on their own, without interference and oversight from their predecessor, to develop as the new chief executive of the credit union. They need time for the credit union’s board to adjust and learn to trust the leadership of their new CEO. It’s likely the new CEO has ideas or plans for the credit union, which vastly differ from his or her predecessor that may even contravene the retiring CEO’s legacy.
I cannot imagine the difficulties faced by a new CEO trying to bring forth new ideas and a vision for the future of a credit union without board members looking to his or her predecessor for signs of confirmation that that he or she is competent. Or, perhaps board members giving more weight to a retired CEO’s opinions than what is typically given an “ordinary board member.” A new chief executive under the ever-present shadow of his or her predecessor is a CEO in title only with all the responsibility and no authority to effectuate change or to grow into a leader trusted by the board and credit union employees.
For years after I took over as CEO of ISU Credit Union, some of my board members kept referring to the way my predecessor use to do things. It was not uncommon to hear: “Lonnie used to… .” or “Lonnie always told us… .” It was difficult enough to begin moving my credit union in a new direction without also having the critical eye of my predecessor sitting on the board judging if my ideas threatened to undermine his 30-year legacy. I’m grateful to Lonnie for giving me the keys to the credit union then walking away to enjoy other pursuits, which allowed me to develop my own relationship with the board unfettered by the way he used to do things.
I understand how difficult it must be to devote your entire life to the credit union movement only to walk away completely from an ideal that may have helped shape your very core. There is however, a solution that benefits everyone. Retiring CEOs can stay involved in the credit union movement by providing their expertise to credit unions other than their own, especially small credit unions struggling to survive.
If a retiring CEO still wants to serve the credit union where he or she spent their youth, do so in later years after his or her successor has had time to develop as the chief executive and gain the trust of the board of directors. New CEOs shouldn’t be required to be carbon copies of their predecessors or fill their shoes. They need be the new blood with fresh perspectives that will help their credit union navigate an uncertain future. They need to be allowed to make their own footprints.
I know when my time comes I will give my successor the same opportunity to succeed as my predecessor gave me by walking away completely to enjoy other pursuits.