Wisdom from the C Suite

As she retires from a 26-year career with Zions, LeeAnne Linderman shares her strategies for leadership success.

Nicola McIntosh Jul 30, 2018

You may have never met LeeAnne Linderman, but if you’ve been in a Zions Bank branch, used the mobile app to check your account balance, or applied for an auto loan, you’ve been touched by her leadership at Zions Bancorporation.

As executive vice president of enterprise retail banking and a member of the company’s executive management committee, Linderman was responsible for 447 retail branches in 11 western and southwestern states. She also directed all product development and management for consumer and small business deposits, loans and digital products in addition to channel strategy and Voice of the Customer programs.

A tireless advocate for women in leadership, she was the first female chair of the Utah Bankers Association and was named to American Banker magazine’s “Most Powerful Women in Banking” list several times.

During her 26-year career with Zions, Linderman served as a mentor for many in the organization. Now on the eve of an early retirement, she offers advice to young professionals aspiring to leadership positions.  

Advocate for Your Career

“It’s critical to start advocating for your career early,” Linderman says. “Don’t just wait for a tap on the shoulder for each new growth opportunity because you think you’ve done a terrific job. Take responsibility to advocate for your career.” Take advantage of formal mentoring programs, but don’t overlook informal opportunities such as specific skill mentoring or peer-to-peer mentoring. 

Continue to Develop Your Skills

Do this with an eye towards how your industry is changing, or you may find yourself with obsolete skills. “More and more people want to do their banking transactions in a self-serve fashion, and they expect the experience will be much like Amazon Prime: order it today, delivered on your front porch tomorrow,” Linderman says. “But then they look for their banker interactions to add value: How can we help them grow their business? How can we help them develop their personal financial expertise so that like me they can retire early?”

This means banking relationship managers need to be continually educating clients about our  technological solutions that make the self-serve experience easier for them, but also to continue to look for educational opportunities for themselves that position them to be a value-add  relationship banker. 

Be an Effective Listener and Questioner

“So often we attend meetings, disseminate information and then everyone says thank you, gets up and leaves. But if you listen and question effectively you’re much more likely to leave a conversation or a meeting with clarity of purpose and understanding of next-step actions. That’s a rare leadership skill.”

For women seeking leadership roles, Linderman adds three more pieces of advice:

Speak up. “Women often hesitate to speak up and either question or contribute in meetings,” she says. “I tell young women, you’re in that room, any room, for a reason. And the reason is because of your skills, your abilities and the role that you have been given in the company. As a result, you have a responsibility to participate, to question and to contribute.”

In addition, Linderman says women must not allow themselves to be interrupted. “It’s the same advice I would give a man, it’s just that the research shows that women are more frequently interrupted.

Accept praise graciously. “Accept praise for a good idea, for the delivery of a very effective project, or for terrific results,” Linderman says. “When someone says to you, wow, that is terrific, the professional response is ‘Thank you. I worked very hard on that and I, too, am proud of the result.’”

Seek sponsors, not just mentors. “Sponsors are professionals who are willing to put their own professional reputation on the line for you,” she says. “There are fewer women in the highest leadership roles in the banking industry than there are men, so I always recommend finding a sponsor — or several.”

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