Nurturing Future Leaders


ICBA’s Leadership Academy program develops tomorrow’s top industry executives

By Ellen Ryan

Hoping for a big promotion next year? Want to learn everything possible about your area of community banking—or an area you haven’t yet mastered? See yourself as CEO someday? Want to become the boss in the future?

These are all great reasons to sign up for ICBA’s Leadership Academy, a comprehensive leadership development curriculum tailored to community banks that is part of the association’s broader Community Banker University educational program.

“This new leadership development program will benefit all members,” says Bob Page, chairman of ICBA’s Education Committee and a market president for Harbor Community Bank, a $1.7 billion-asset community bank in Gainesville, Fla. “The Leadership Academy will develop the next wave of community bank leaders.”

Formally launched in March, this ambitious program offers all community bankers a chance to learn specific skills, practice collaboration and initiative, and network with peers from around the nation. Community bankers can choose to take all or part of the 90-hour curriculum; those who finish will receive a certificate of completion.

“It’s perfect timing,” offers ICBA Vice Chairman Tim Zimmerman, a member of the Education Committee and the president and CEO of Standard Bank, $465 million-asset community bank in Monroeville, Pa. In addition to “a big need for succession planning now,” Zimmerman says that, “a lot of specialized knowledge you need to function well to run a bank, you can’t get at a college or university.”

For instance, where else can you learn about specifics of mortgage banking, community bank personnel management, interest rate risk? The usual answer is “from your boss,” but that can be limiting, Zimmerman says. However, ICBA’s Leadership Academy “exposes people to true experts across the field,” he explains.

“We wanted to give [community bankers] a place to engage, to empower them, enrich their skills, connect them to well-known experts, and grow their career connections and network of colleagues.”
—Lindsay LaNore, Community Banker University

“I can teach employees from my general knowledge, but all the core background [at the academy] is from people way smarter than me. And you’re not learning from just one person.”

Comprehensive program

The Leadership Academy’s strong curriculum is only one advantage for community bankers who enroll in the academy’s program, says Lindsay LaNore, executive vice president of ICBA’s Community Bank University. There’s also no timeline to complete a certificate, and types of learning vary.

Some specific offerings from the Leadership Academy program include:

Webinars. Intensive webinars are taught in sets that focus on one topic at a time. The first series of five, starting this month, looks at community bank financial forensics. The next series of four, focusing on leadership and personal development skills, overlaps slightly and begins in August. Among the featured speakers will be Sara Canaday, executive coach and author of “You According to Them,” and Brad Federman of F&H Solutions Group, author of “Employee Engagement and Jump Start.”

Online training. There are 21 online courses in the program totaling 25 hours, available at any time. These concentrate on six important areas: communications, compliance, customer service, human resources, management/leadership and financial operations. Individual topics include ethics, creativity, listening skills, problem-solving and risk management.

Live events. The curriculum offers participants three exciting events. Venue options include the LEAD FWD Summit in Denver in September, the Washington Policy Summit next April and the Leadership Academy Forum in June 2017 at the Barret School of Banking in Memphis, Tenn.

Participants at events can interact with inspiring, national-level experts “who use nontraditional ways to impart leadership skills,” LaNore says.

Community Banker University launched Leadership Academy to spark innovation and elevated leadership within community banks. As part of the program, evolving and emerging community bank leaders may complete the curriculum at their own pace but will be introduced to a network of fellow community bankers sharing the same educational goals.

The program’s opportunities include:

  • Community Bank Financial Forensics (webinar series)
    LEAD FWD Summit in Denver (live event)
  • Leadership Acceleration Bundle (online training)
  • Leadership & Professional Development Skills (webinar series)
  • Leadership Academy Forum in Memphis, Tenn. (live event)
  • Washington Policy Summit (live event)

For more information, visit

Tom Fishburne is one. The founder and CEO of Marketoonist, a content marketing firm, used his Harvard University MBA degree as a corporate marketing executive and now consults and speaks on innovation, imagination and creativity. Another is Erica Dhawan, the CEO of the New York management consulting firm Cotential and the author of “Get Big Things Done,” who is an advocate of “connectional intelligence.” Both will give keynote talks at September’s LEAD FWD Summit in Denver.

All these classes and events will expose community bankers to things they might not ordinarily see, both nationally and globally, says Page, market president for north central Florida of the $1.7 billion-asset Harbor Community Bank in Gainesville, Fla. Many community banks can’t afford $10,000 to train staff for a next-level job or position of responsibility, he points out: “The Leadership Academy is a cost-effective way to keep pace with evolutions in technology, regulations, trends in management, communication and more.”

“The Leadership Academy will develop the next wave of community bankers.”
—Bob Page, Harbor Community Bank

Instructors are excited, says Page, who helped develop much of the Leadership Academy curriculum. The program’s flexibility means it’s easy to add a session as consumer demands change and technology shifts. “When bankers get new tools and see how they can impact their banks and their communities,” he says, “they will see the success of this program in tangible ways.”

Tailored to community banks

As a CEO, Zimmerman is naturally concerned with planning for the succession of his community bank’s managers. “It’s helpful for people like me to get new people ready to move up regarding economics, regulatory, business, leadership, legislative affairs and so on,” he says. The academy “looks at all elements of leadership with a community bank focus.

“If I were at Citigroup, it might not be so helpful—this really is the right size, scope and scale for community banking.”

Zimmerman is sending some of Standard Bank’s management team to the academy’s events. He says some Standard Bank employees will benefit from the program. Individual pieces will work for Page and his colleagues at Harbor Community Bank as well. “I love to network with other bankers,” Page says, whether at an advocacy summit in Washington, through a banking school or taking a course online. “It makes you energized, braced for change—not afraid of it. You see new products, meet people, and learn how they’re overcoming obstacles that you might see as well.”

All of those forms of networking are big components of the educational structure of Leadership Academy, says LaNore. “Community bankers are expected to move their banks forward but also to move their community and industry forward,” she says. “We wanted to give them a place to engage, to empower them, enrich their skills, connect them to well-known experts, and grow their career connections and network of colleagues.

“I believe it has staying power. This is what our industry needs.”

Ellen Ryan is a writer in Maryland.