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Leadership in the Shadow of Crisis

Laura Lynn Burke
Oct 10, 2014

Leading after the crisis, is often times more difficult than leading through a crisis. In the midst of crisis, everyone pulls together and rallies the troops to make it through unscathed. Leadership after crisis is utopic, as it is scrutinized under the microscope. In hindsight, fingers are easily pointed, and “should haves” are abundant.

We are all well aware of the 2008 financial meltdown and mortgage crisis that affected our nation and a plethora of lenders. Many companies closed their doors, the mortgage brokers business never to be the same again. As time heals all wounds, the gaping gashes of the mortgage crisis are healing, still tender to the touch and ever ready to be opened again, hast we lead with ethically strong leaders.

What characteristics make a strong leader? I could list a bunch of adjectives we are familiar with from our days of ethics and business leadership courses: Accountability, achiever, character, ability to command, conviction, determination, education, experience, ethical, foresight, loyal, resolve, thinker, trustworthy, and the list goes on. But what truly determines a leader is that others will “choose” to follow them. It is not a mandated rule, or strong-armed management decree, it is a pulling of their insides that guides them and directs them to follow a leader. It is a quality unknown to those who are not true leaders, that people will merely choose to follow a leader, to believe in a leader, from the trenches of war; with General Patton to Mother Teresa; a Roman Catholic Religious Sister and missionary, others chose to follow. 

Great leaders lead, while managers manage … there is a distinct difference. Now is the time to display your leadership, whether you are running a billion dollar enterprise or running your own business of originating loans, you will want to be a leader. 

Leave the past and move forward, not forgetting the past but learning from past mistakes, not making the same ones again, make new ones as we move forward. Did you know all leaders blunder and make mistakes, but it is how they react and relate to their mistakes. Do they take ownership of their error, and do they make it right to the best of their abilities?

There is the Pareto Principle, known as the 80/20 rule, which states that, for many events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. For example, 20 percent of a group of people will succeed, while 80 percent will not because 20 percent will do what it takes to make it work, while the other 80 percent will either not try or simply give up. John Maxwell noted in his Leadership 101 seminar, “If you are leading a company, knowing these statistics are relevant; one should spend 80 percent of your time, and company budget, focusing on the 20 percent who will produce and will become leaders.”

Just like in art, we have masterpieces and master works. A master work is art painted by the same artist who created a masterpiece, similar in quality, but not a masterpiece. All leaders may not be creating masterpieces all of the time, however, they may be doing master work, which is what all companies strive for—from the top CEO all the way through to the workers. A key worker, who is a leader in his/her own right, can lead a group of workers to produce the most high quality work. An inspiring leader who is a manger/supervisor can help coach and bring about more leadership in the workers.

It goes up the line all the way to the top CEO, as the CEO’s core philosophies are exuded via the company. The company makes statements of leadership quality throughout its culture and economic scale.

What is your company saying about your leadership? Is it giving the right signals? Examine the leaders at your helm to see if they are leaders who inspire others.

One must leave the past and move forward, is your leader demonstrating the qualities to expand, and rekindle the fires that burned within mortgage banking of year’s past? It is time to stoke those fires, send up the smoke signals and recapture lost market share by having the competitive advantage of leadership.

Not all leaders are born knowing they are to be a great leaders. It is true that some have inherent leadership qualities, while others obtain theirs along the road of experience and education.

I have devised a theory of leadership, as many of us have taken the personality test to determine our category, Type A Personality, Type B Personality, the Over-Achiever, or the Complacent One.

What if we had a litmus test to score our employees or future politicians as to their leadership qualities, traits and abilities? Just what is it that makes the introvert become the key leader in a crisis? Who should we trust to guide our ship back from treacherous waters, the navy seal who never gives up, or your company’s CEO, COO or CIO? Or either one, as they are both equal leaders? Whose qualities do we rely on?

A team of uniquely talented individuals are who should be the leaders of this decade and beyond. Those who are like-minded in spirit, share ideas and agree to disagree. It is going to be the emergence of leading teams led by great leaders who inspire and communicate effectively that will take companies from being just ordinary to extraordinary status.

As the mortgage industry rebounds, leading from the hip is no longer an appropriate strategy for leadership. The in-sync, thought-enhanced, and thought-induced leader is needed. Where do we find one? From what depths must we search for one? Should they be young or old? Male or female? African-American, Caucasian or Asian? Well-educated or filled with the hands-on experience of working in the trenches? The answer is yes, yes, and yes to all of the above.

What does a naval seal leader have in common with a religious leader? What does a religious leader have in common with the chief executive officer of Microsoft? Leaders lead, that is what they do best, they don’t manage, they don’t sell, they lead. Leaders innovate, reflect, instill values and are constant students of their environment. One must lead a company into prosperity.

A leader knows what their strengths and weaknesses are. They also know their team’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the strengths or weaknesses of their company. They are great communicators. A leader’s qualities are diverse in culture, age, size, sex, occupation, education and accomplishments. Leaders are extraordinary people who make ordinary events extraordinary.

It is time for all leaders to emerge, stand tall, regroup and bring the mortgage industry back to the glory days of the past … a time when lenders confidently lent money to average people to obtain the American dream of homeownership. It will be these leaders that the industry will follow and adapt as prominent and key individuals to the rising up from the ashes, and give birth to the mortgage industry as we once knew it. It is time for our leaders to look past the dark years of 2008-2011, past the failures and shortcomings of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and it is time to put aside blame, and move forward towards more prosperous times. Awaken all leaders and move forward!


Laura Lynn Burke has 20-plus years of experience in the mortgage arena, having been in the trenches as a loan officer, originating more than $35 million as CEO of her own mortgage company. She may be reached by e-mail at [email protected].


Oct 10, 2014