Learning About Leadership: From a Mentor and Father Time

I recently received the following comment from Doug Fecher, CEO of Wright-Patt Credit Union reflecting on celebrating another year of experiences. Or as he opens his remarks: “knowing that we know a whole lot less than we did just a few years ago.”

His reflection is a reminder of a leader’s influence as a mentor, whether intended or not.

I remember my first boss in credit unions – a former Ohio State All American who played for Woody Hayes, won a Rose Bowl and national championship with the Buckeyes in 1954, and played for the Steelers for a year or two until he blew out his knees (before they knew how to fix them). Bill came home a local hero for his success on the football field so they made him manager of the local credit union.

I’m starting to understand what Bill must have thought about us young kids as we went at our jobs like we knew it all. Of course he’d forgotten more than we knew about credit unions and the business of running them. His genius was in letting us make our mistakes so that we’d come to know what he did: that none of us is as smart as we think we are. Of course he would never let us make a serious mistake, and he went about it in a way in which none of us really knew how much he was teaching us. I remember him growling at us (he always growled even when he was being nice … I think it was the football player in him). “I don’t care what you do, just do something even if it’s wrong!” (I removed the expletives he used about every third word.)

Sitting still was never Bill’s style … Moving the ball down the field was his way, even if every once in a while you’d get thrown for a loss.

I think about Bill every so often, and especially as each year goes by. He played the part of a dumb football player pretty well … dumb as a fox. The man taught me more than I ever gave him credit for and I only started realizing that a few years ago.

Some days I think that’s the way people look at me, as if our business is starting to pass me by. And it makes me smile.

– Doug Fecher, CEO Wright-Patt Credit Union

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