CEO Jeff Kennedy on Leadership and Wisdom

TwinStarCU CEO Jeff Kennedy
TwinStarCU CEO Jeff Kennedy

Leadership has to be one of the great, enduring topics of conferences, books, and coffee shop dialogue. What is it exactly, and how does one use it effectively? Is there a shortage of leadership around the world, or are people simply “leaders in waiting” – gearing up for the right opportunity to make a difference? This is a topic that can go forever. So many layers, and interesting perspectives.

I would say that an important part of leadership, to paraphrase Arianna Huffington, is to help people thrive. Yes, it does start with the individual, but so many are in need of that spark, that extra push, that leader who can take them from good to great!

Jeff Kennedy has been that leader, and then some. He is an eternal champion of the formula of hard work, philanthropy, and strategic networking. As President and CEO of TwinStar Credit Union, he is celebrating his 31st year at the institution. Three decades anywhere connects you to the spirit of that business. You get to know your customers and your employees. You can reflect on the changes and re-configurations, which may give you a sense of the best direction for the company.

Like Warren Buffet with Berkshire Hathaway, or Ursula Burns of Xerox, Kennedy’s years of helping to grow the company has given him tremendous wisdom – wisdom that others coming up behind him can learn from, and put to good use. He was gracious enough to share his top thirty tips:

  1. Everything you do can be on the internet in 10 seconds.
  2. There are 3 sides to every story…yours, mine and what actually happened.
  3. Just when you think you’ve seen it all…you haven’t.
  4. You can’t borrow your way out of debt.
  5. Hard work does get noticed.
  6. Great work gets noticed more.
  7. Leave gracefully. You never know when that bridge will show up again.
  8. True friends don’t see socio-economic status.
  9. Coffee tastes better when sitting outside.
  10. Read. A lot.
  11. Covet the brilliance of youth instead of discounting it.
  12. Nothing sounds as sweet as an American made V-8.
  13. Except babies giggling.
  14. Chivalry never goes out of style.
  15. Please and thank you still get better results than yelling and swearing.
  16. What you do tomorrow is more important than what you did yesterday.
  17. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but it’s okay to be afraid of honest answers.
  18. Learn to cook.
  19. There may not be time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over.
  20. Kids learn more from watching their parents than they do from listening to them.
  21. The more respect you give, the more you get.
  22. Learn to say NO.
  23. Sometimes it’s okay to sit and watch the sprinkler.
  24. Go to bed when you’re tired, not when somebody else thinks it’s the right time.
  25. Everybody should have a crazy aunt or uncle. It’s even more fun to be one.
  26. Leaders tell you where to go. Great leaders build cultures and environments where everyone can thrive and succeed.
  27. Be the person your grandparents would be proud of.
  28. Hire people smarter than you.
  29. Surround yourself with people that share the same values.
  30. Baskin Robbins makes the best milkshakes because they use the best ingredients. It’s too bad some companies don’t follow the same recipe.

Sean Gardner is a board member and V.P. of Social Media with the World Communication Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and an advisory board member with the Digital Media World Forum Series. He is also a global keynote speaker, business creative, and digital producer who lives in the Seattle area. He currently conducts workshops and social media training for small business, nonprofits, celebrities, and multinational corporations. You can follow his global adventures on Instagram.

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