Real leaders improve their communities. David Reiling, CEO and chairman of Sunrise Banks, details why businesses should act as responsible citizens. David highlights attributes of good and bad leaders, how to think creatively, and the importance of acting ethically in the face of challenges like social unrest, marginalization, and poverty.
David started his career as a bank teller in South Central Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots. In those days, bank robberies were simply part of the job, but David knew they didn’t have to be if people were served well and given access to resources.
Years later he moved to Minneapolis and decided to turn a failing bank around in an immigrant neighborhood through a shared-value proposition. The business model tethered the success of the bank with the success of the community. If one succeeded or failed, so did the other.
Do Well And Do Good
David says the key to balancing mission and business results lies in curiosity and authenticity in front of those you are serving.
[7:39] “I really look at a business as a component of a citizen of a community. . . . The better the citizen, the better the community.”
Many businesses conceive of their mission as an afterthought or a necessary evil. David finds this mindset is antithetical to any kind of profit.
David says if you want to do good work and turn a profit, you have to come to terms with inhabiting gray areas — there are no black and white decisions. Running a business that does well financially and does good socially requires more hard work, problem-solving, and difficult conversations than the average business. However, the financial and emotional return is exponentially greater.
Lead Even When No One Is Looking
David remembers when his father took it upon himself to try to save the Dorothy Day building from foreclosure in downtown Minneapolis. His father told him: Some buildings are just buildings, but some buildings stand for something.
[17:41] “In that space where nobody is looking, where are you at?”
David says his father’s leadership, initiative, and authenticity in that moment stick with him today. He believes that the best leaders serve others, consider the long-term impact of their decisions, are honest, and develop good teams.
[20:26] “A team is going to accomplish far more than some rugged individual who thinks they’re a leader.”
Leadership Amidst Social Unrest
David reflects that the difference between the Rodney King riots and the George Floyd riots lies greatly in the fact that the Floyd riots were nationwide. People across the country are asking how to be part of a solution to injustices — and that’s encouraging.
Because much trust has been broken with local and national governments, David says people are looking to businesses and individuals to help provide a way forward.
People can always grow and wounds can heal. To become a better leader, David recommends:
- Listen first
- Engage with uncomfortable conversations
- Stay humble and open to learning about yourself and others
- Understand your strengths and weaknesses
- Ask for help
- Take time for introspection
It’s important that leaders learn to fail forward. Always dust yourself off, take note of what worked and what didn’t, and keep moving forward. The world is counting on leaders to build a better world.