Wednesday, January 26, 2022
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Commentary: Mark Nurdin on leadership, management and the difference between the two

🕐 7 min read

Mark G. Nurdin is president and CEO of the Fort Worth Region for Bank of Texas. He has more than 30 years of commercial banking and wealth management experience and more than 10 years of experience in sales coaching and leadership.

Actively involved in the community, Nurdin is or has been a board member with United Way of Tarrant County, the Boy Scouts of America Longhorn Council, Fort Worth Sister Cities, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Association and the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.

He is a past chairman and active member of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and is a current member of the Rotary Club of Fort Worth, where he was a past president and a Paul Harris Fellow.

He has been associated with the Salvation Army’s Fort Worth Advisory Board, the American Heart Association, Leadership Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Stock Show Syndicate and the Cowtown Executives Association.

Nurdin received his Bachelor of Business Administration from Texas Tech University. Mark and his wife, Robin, have two sons, Tyler and Hunter.

What are your views about the differences between a leader and someone who only manages?

I think it’s true that not every manager is a leader and not every leader is a manager. Leadership is not about a line on an Org Chart. There are managers who are leaders and leaders who are managers but the two aren’t one and the same.

There’s a place for managers. Managers are necessary in order to get tasks accomplished. I’ve had good managers and I’ve had bad managers – probably more bad than good, but I’ve learned something from all of them.

Leadership is really more about inspiration and about leading people to their own epiphany about what they need to do in order to grow and expand within their own job function or career. It’s about building trust and encouraging people to get outside their comfort zone, and to achieve things that they never thought possible.

That’s the difference between leadership and management.

Positive psychology shows us that leaders just think differently. How do you either think differently or develop your mental process so your attitudes and viewpoints are more like a leader and not just a manager?

That’s a great question. I think the way I would answer that question is it really gets down to whether you’re thinking strategically or thinking tactically.

Managers tend to be very tactical. I have this task that I need my people to perform and I want to make sure they are on task and doing the things they need to be doing in the time frame we need to get things done; very tactical.

Leaders, on the other hand, are much more strategic. They’re looking out on the horizon and thinking not about the next move they’re going to make but thinking about two or three moves down the road.

I think that’s the best way that I can describe how a manager thinks and how a leader thinks.

What would you say are one or two character traits that are non-negotiable for someone to be a leader?

Several come to mind. First of all, leaders need to be known for unwavering integrity. That’s a non-negotiable. The second one that comes to mind is empathy, being able to connect with people on a personal level. I think for a leader that’s absolutely necessary, critically necessary. I also think that the ability to listen and hear is very important to a leader.

Leadership is about leading people to their own epiphany. It’s not about telling; here’s what you’ve got to do and here’s how you have to do it. That’s performance management. There is a time and place for that. But leadership is about leading people to their own conclusions about what they need to do to get better and to grow and expand their career. And in order to do that you really have to listen and hear what they’re saying. So being able to listen is very important.

I think courage is another important characteristic for a leader. A leader’s objective is not to be liked and a leader must always speak the truth. Sometimes, that means delivering a difficult message. That is not always well accepted. You’ve got to have the courage to do that. Now there’s a right and wrong way to deliver that message but you’ve got to have the courage to have those difficult conversations.

What are one or two skill sets that are required to become a good leader?

For me I think organizational skills are really important. Particularly when you are managing managers, you’ve got to have really good organizational skills to stay on top of that. Communication skills are very important, being able to communicate a vision. And being able to help people understand what role they play in that vision and understand the why. Why do we want to rally behind this? And then help people understand what’s in it for them. That’s all about communication skills; very, very important. Delegation skills are also very important. A leader has to be able to leverage himself or herself and you simply can’t do that without delegating.

You lead this organization. You have led at the United Way. You were a Rotary president, and Fort Worth Chamber president. What motivates or inspires you to have taken on such a huge leadership role in Fort Worth?

I’ve been in the banking business over 35 years now and the first organization I was a part of, their culture was one that said, “A bank is only as strong as the community that it serves.” We benefit greatly from being a part of our community and consequently we need to be prepared to reinvest in the community that we serve. So that’s just been something that has been part of my DNA pretty much my whole career. I do believe that. I believe that being a banker I’ve got to be willing to serve my community and “give forward” to my community.

What do you see as Fort Worth’s strengths and what do we most need to work on?

A fundamental strength of Fort Worth is what many people describe as the “Fort Worth Way.”

It is a very collaborative culture here in Fort Worth. It is a willingness to really take a look at the issues and come together and figure out solutions to the issues. I think that’s the greatest strength of Fort Worth.

I think the people here in this community are a great strength. I wasn’t raised here but I was embraced by this community because I came in and demonstrated a willingness to put roots down here and commit to this community. I was embraced very quickly. The people here are some of the best people in the world. Fort Worth, in my opinion, is the biggest small town in America. We are the 13th largest city now in the U.S. and Fort Worth still has a community identity. I think those are all strengths.

Some of the challenges we have are in education. It’s a challenge that every big city in this country faces. I do think we’re making strides in that regard.

I know Dr. Kent Scribner’s leadership in Fort Worth ISD is making significant strides in educating our young people. The mayor’s initiative, Read Fort Worth, to get 3rd graders reading at grade level is working. I think we’re headed in the right direction but we have more work to do.

Transportation is also an issue. We are one of the fastest growing communities in the country. We have people coming into Fort Worth & Tarrant County on daily basis and our infrastructure is being challenged. We’re going to have to address that.

And I would say that poverty is an issue. Fort Worth and Tarrant County have a higher poverty rate than the state of Texas as a whole and the state has a higher poverty rate than the U. S. In spite of all of the economic gains that we have witnessed in this market over the past several years, not everyone is participating in those gains. It is a very complex issue and it will not be solved quickly, but reducing the poverty rate in this community is a worthy endeavor.

John Wright, CSL, is president of Simple Leadership Strategies in Fort Worth.

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