Are You a “Leader” or a “Boss”?

Recently, I wrote a book review on Brian Townley’s Inspiring Leadership: Unleashing Motivation in the Workplace that was published in the American Bankers Association Banking Journal. To see the online version, click here, or you can read the review below.


Brian Townley’s Inspiring Leadership brings a refreshing perspective to the genre of motivational guides. He shares lessons from his perspective as a bank employee who was battle tested in an institution that was acquired in a failed bank transaction in 1991.  He is still with that banking company today, as senior vice-president and director of both marketing and HR, and is also head of an affiliated motivational consulting firm.

The book begins with a terrific quote by President Harry Truman: “A great leader is a (person) who has the ability to get other people to do what they don’t want to do, and like it.”

Simple, accepted ideas come to life through a solid assessment of what should be considered a bank’s most precious asset:  unleashing motivation in the workplace and creating an environment of growing leaders. From the development of leaders to coaching, from attracting talent to keeping an “I” on employees, or creating a lean mean winning sales machine, Townley deftly guides his readers through the motivational process and in the end proposes a manual for on the job training along with a well-knit list of forms, quotes, lists, and to-dos. Frequently Townley makes key points through stories drawn from his own career.

Two paragraphs from the book help express Townley’s leadership philosophy:

“Employees have to feel it’s about them before it can be about the organization, and as leaders we must communicate it that way. Then we have a cohesive team with players who are all working toward the same goals and objectives that benefit both the company and the employees.”

“A good leader can create an environment where people actually like their job and want to do it well. That is the difference between being a ‘boss’ and being a ‘leader.’ A boss gives orders. A leader inspires and influences others. Leadership is the power to encourage people, not power over people.”

Townley’s discussion on how to handle multiple generations–whether they be veterans, boomers, Gen X, or Gen Y–will help anyone understand how to maximize a work force that may appear to be polarized. Townley demonstrates how such a group can actually be homogenized into an unstoppable unit.

For C-Level managers who understand that people do business with a banker, not a bank, and who understand that employee training is not only the job of HR, this book will give a fast and understandable look into how to create the customer service environment that all community bankers talk about.

In Townley’s words: “When we inspire others to motivate themselves, then they will be great travel companions on this successful journey. What is an inspiring leader? Someone who takes pleasure in seeing the best qualities in another, unleashed […]”

Inspiring Leadership takes us on that journey.

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