CEO discusses valuable leadership skills

By Paul Skow
October 29, 2009

One of the most necessary tools for running a business is leadership. Deb Takes, the president and CEO of Harleysville Bank and member of the Board of Trustees at Cabrini, spoke about leadership skills that she learned as a successful businesswoman as part of the “Leading Organizations Through Difficult Economic Times” lecture held on Tuesday, Oct. 20.

Takes said that the most important part of running a successful company is “getting the right people in the right jobs.” She also said that it is important to “know the difference between your gut and the cold hard facts of reality.”

The lecture was offered as one of the four free lectures in the Master of Science in Organization Leadership program that Cabrini hosts every year.

The majority of those thatgathered in the Grace Hall Boardroom for the lecture were graduate students, such as Denise McElwain, who attended as part of her class for Leaders, Tools and Technology, a graduate course for organization and leadership.

Others included members of the community, such as Jim Wynne, a small business owner in the area.

“I have always found Cabrini’s lectures to be interesting. I always take something away from them,” Wynne said.

Takes oversees the $4 billion Harleysville Bank’s 500 employees and 55 locations, making her a reputable speaker on leadership and business advice.

Takes condensed the majority of her points into 12 steps of ways to get ahead in business, while running an organization in a people-friendly environment.

According to Takes, when running a company, it is important to prioritize: first the owners, second the customers, third the employees and fourth the community.

Some of the vital insights she gave were to “grab hold of situations, make employees feel smart and important and think like the customer.”

Another proposal she revealed was to attach urgency to situations and don’t waste resources on changing strategies midstream.

“Get it right the first time,” Takes said.”Move non-performing employees out. Know when to fold ’em.”

Takes emphasized not depending on technology for everything, something that a great deal of the population does all too often.

“Don’t expect technology to save you. It is a tool, not a replacement for creative thinking,” Takes said.

It is also important to be a responsible leader. Takes said to praise workers and to take blame for mistakes, instead of putting blame on others.

“The blame game won’t be successful. Accountability is how you get things done,” Takes said.

President Marie George was also in attendance at the lecture. George liked the “continued emphasis on knowing the customers whom you are serving” and described Takes as a “servant leader.” She also appreciated the fact that Takes was able to synthesize leadership skills into 12 steps. Takes is “grounded in a lot of good leadership experience and understands the current economic times,” George said.

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Paul Skow

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