Reading List: Leading Through Uncertainty

In fall 2011, Ray Davis, CEO of Umpqua Holdings Corp., the holding company for Umpqua Bank (Oregon’s largest independent community bank), learned that the Occupy Portland segment of the national movement was planning to march on the bank. Against the advice of his communications team, Davis did the unexpected: He invited the protest leaders to meet with him. The meeting went well, and the two sides parted amicably. Three days later, when Occupy marched on the big banks, it skipped Umpqua.

Was the pass the result of the meeting? Davis isn’t sure. He is sure, however, that “when you’ve earned a reputation for being transparent and doing the right thing… this can make a huge difference in uncertain times.” In Davis’s view, social capital is almost as critical as monetary capital, and once lost, is “extremely difficult to recover.” He exhorts leaders to remain agile when faced with uncertainty or change and to keep their heads out of the sand when problems arise. He also stresses the critical value of listening to, motivating and inspiring employees, and keeping them informed, especially during difficult times. (During the 2008 economic downturn, he regularly held town meetings with bank employees.)

In Leading Through Uncertainty, Davis gives leaders at every level wise advice for dealing with external and internal problems. And his CEO style appears to be a big success. Since he came on board in 1994, Umpqua Bank’s assets have increased from $140 million to $12 billion, and it’s been one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” seven years running.

by Ray Davis with Peter Economy

November
Jossey-Bass; $27.99

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