Mama Mia! Millie Freel-Mackin Retires from the New York State Banking Department
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Mama Mia! Millie Freel-Mackin Retires from the New York State Banking Department

January 10, 2002

Lead, follow or get out of the wayArt Swiatkowskileadership skills, success tips, motivation
"The Art of Leadership"; it's an interesting and
thought-provoking theme for this year's National Association of
Mortgage Brokers annual convention. What does it mean to you? How
does it relate to you? Let me give you some food for thought and a
warning.
Recently, after teaching a commercial lending course in
Arkansas, I had the misfortune of missing my flight out of Little
Rock (a story for another time). To wile away the hours I would
have to spend in the airport waiting for the next flight home, I
purchased a book. The title was, "The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders
Make," by Hans Finzel.
Mr. Finzel does a nice job of helping the reader understand what
good leadership is and why there are so few great leaders in the
corporate world today. His definition of leadership is rather
simple. He says, "Leadership is influence. Anyone who influences
someone to do something has led that person."
I enjoyed the book, but I felt that it missed an important
dimension. Leadership is not just about leading people. It really
starts with our ability to influence ourselves--motivating
ourselves to push beyond existing limitations. Leadership is
getting ourselves to stretch, to grow and to achieve in spite of
challenges that will inevitably arise--in other words, personal
leadership.
Part of the problem in developing personal leadership is that
most people don't know what leadership is. As the author says,
"Like love, leadership continues to be something everyone knows
exists but nobody can define." Research on the subject shows more
than 350 definitions and theories on leadership. And since people
don't know what leadership is, they also don't know what good
leadership looks like.
Most attempts to define personal leadership would include
concepts like: goal setting, formulating action plans and creating
"to do" lists. While personal leadership does include these
critically important elements of success, it also encompasses
concepts that go well beyond them. To really develop the personal
leadership we need to succeed, we must be able to utilize
self-motivation, self-analysis and self-discipline. When goals are
not achieved, when plans are not executed, when lists are left
undone, you will usually find a lack of these virtues as the
reason.
Self-motivation is about "the why." Why do you get up in the
morning? Why are you in the mortgage business? Why have you set
$300,000 as your financial goal? (You do have written goals, don't
you?) You must have answers. It's very hard to get excited about a
goal if you aren't clear on what pleasure you will derive or pain
you will avoid by achieving it. This is the stage when you give
meaning and an emotional charge to your goals and objectives.
Self-analysis is the ability to look in the "mirror of our life"
and be honest. You need to see and acknowledge your strengths and
limitations as they relate to your goals. This is where you will
recognize potential obstacles, many of which are self-created.
(There are also situational obstacles that are not of our own
creation, but these can be more readily handled in the
action-planning process.)
Self-discipline is the ability to get yourself to do the
necessary things to reach your goals, even when you encounter
obstacles or other tempting options that steal your attention. It
is about leveraging your strengths and formulating ways for
eliminating or reducing the impact of your limitations. What
strategies and tactics can you employ to keep you on the path to
your goal? More than just will power, the strategies must be
practiced in order to form the habits that will support you on the
journey to your goal.
The aforementioned three qualities are important to developing
personal leadership, and personal leadership is a major ingredient
in the formula for your success. But I want to alert you to one
concept that, if permitted, can wreak havoc on your efforts to
develop personal leadership: change.
In his book, Finzel states that one of the major mistakes poor
leaders make is that they fail to focus on the future. Change is a
part of nature, a part of the business world, a part of everyone's
personal life. In today's world, future is change. Accordingly,
this mistake applies to personal leadership as well.
Change is often the reason why we don't use self-analysis, fail
to develop "the why" of self-motivation, and lack the
self-discipline we need to reach our goals. It keeps us off
balance, makes our goals moving targets, and provides us with the
excuses we need to justify avoidance of these critical components
of personal leadership.
Look at the issues facing the mortgage industry that are
precipitating change: the economy, rising interest rates, consumer
privacy issues, RESPA reform, accelerating technology advancements,
predatory lending legislation, fraud, emerging markets, and on and
on. How will you deal with these issues as they impact your
business?
Unfortunately, most people enter the future kicking and
screaming (or at least complaining a great deal). They see
themselves as victims. Many will become casualties of change in the
mortgage business.
Some will exercise their leadership skills. They will get
involved with others to work on the challenges to our industry.
They will formulate plans in their business to take advantage of
opportunities that present themselves as a result of change.
So, what is it that makes change such a villain in the minds of
so many people? Change itself is not the problem. The real problem
is fear--fear of being pushed from our comfort zone, of losing our
status quo.
Let me give you an example. We are all aware of the loss of
refinance volume as a result of the rise in interest rates. In my
travels, I have the opportunity to talk to residential brokers and
originators from all across the United States. When I ask if they
have considered doing commercial loans to replace lost refi
business, I get several predictable answers. They tell me that they
think commercial loans are too complex or too time-consuming
relative to residential loans. Some say that they've had a bad
experience with a commercial deal in the past. Many state it's too
difficult locating the correct sources to get a commercial deal
funded or marketing for commercial leads. For a long time it was,
"I'm too busy with my residential business." I don't hear that one
much lately.
With further conversation, it became obvious that these were
excuses, not reasons. More in-depth questioning revealed that in
most cases, the underlying issue was fear (fear of the unknown,
fear of looking bad, etc.) Unfortunately, many will stay stuck in
the fear and suffer with the consequences.
On the flip side, I've also talked to brokers and originators
who saw change on the horizon and have already started taking steps
to add commercial loans, reverse mortgages or sub-prime loans to
their available products. Some have begun to focus on emerging
markets or otherwise diversify their business. The point is that
they didn't let fear prevent them from embracing change. They have
exercised their personal leadership to tap into the opportunities
that accompany change.
My friends, the future is upon us. What will you do? Will you
practice the art of personal leadership to ensure your success? I
hope so.
Art "Ski" Swiatkowski is business development manager for
InterBay Funding LLC. He may be reached at (215) 283-4520 or e-mail
aswiatkowski@interbay.com.

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