5 Tips for Leaders from the Wells Fargo Scandal | Tolero Solutions
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5 Tips for Leaders from the Wells Fargo Scandal

5 Tips for Leaders from the Wells Fargo Scandal

If at first you don’t succeed – just create fake bank and credit card accounts to hit your goals…because nothing increases customer satisfaction more than corporate greed.

Wells Fargo is under investigation by the Department of Justice for creating over 2 million fake bank and credit card accounts in order to hit the bank’s lofty sales goals.  They were fined $185 million dollars by the state of California and 5,300 people were fired in the wake of one of the biggest scandals to hit the banking industry.

For those keeping track – creating fake bank and credit card accounts is not just illegal – it’s a poor showing of leadership. All the apology email blasts in the world aren’t going to change that – particularly when the CEO doesn’t even actually apologize! Even when called before Congress to testify he didn’t just own it with a genuine apology – it was ridiculously robotic and scripted. He even mentions the bank wants to “strengthen the culture” … well, he should call me…but I digress.

To make matters worse – the executive tied to the unit of the bank connected to these fines is retiring with a $125 million retirement package.

This seems to be a trend with Wells Fargo (and the finance industry at large) – this past August it was announced that the bank will pay $4 million back to thousands of student loan borrowers for illegal student loan practices involving late fees.

There is no way to sugarcoat this – Wells Fargo leadership has failed their customers.

Here are 5 tips for not failing your customers: 


Great leaders are honest, open and transparent with employees and stakeholders. When making strategic decisions, determining organizational changes or facing issues that impact employees, successful leaders are transparent about how these matters arose, their thought process for dealing with them, and how their solutions may directly impact those they lead.


Good leaders just own it – the good or the bad! Be a grown up, be an honest, transparent, accountable, and authentic leader. Acknowledge that things don’t always go exactly as planned – and don’t whine and make excuses – but let employees and customers know you see it too. Make an effort to relate to what employees or customers are going through, share next steps you plan to take to reevaluate and improve. That’s what builds trust in a leader – and trust in leadership is correlated to high performing organizations with committed employees, loyal customers, and increased performance and profit!


Speaking of trust…trust is a fundamental behavior for any successful relationship, both personal and professional. Trust and confidence in leadership are the single most reliable predictor of employee satisfaction in an organization. Trust must be earned. Leaders can earn employee trust by helping employees understand the company’s overall business strategy, informing them how they contribute to achieving key business goals and sharing information with employees on both how the company is doing and how an employee’s own division is doing relative to organizational objectives. It is much easier for employees to trust a leader that shows an interest in them – a leader who is transparent and accountable.


Successful leaders have a heightened level of self-awareness; they have an understanding of themselves, their behaviors and actions, and how those behaviors and actions are interpreted by, and directly impact, employees – and customers. Professional coaching is also a great well to help further develop leader self-awareness. Be proficient and competent, know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses, and do take responsibility and lead by example. Always be open to further growth and learning.


To be a truly great leader requires taking action – not just strategic and tactical decision making action. Take action to increase your positive behaviors and decrease those with a potential negative impact. Take action to engage with employees, stakeholders and customers. Training, coaching, and mentoring are all great ways to increase and develop new skills that can have a positive impact on those you lead. Take action towards constant growth and improvement.

Will Wells Fargo leadership learn a lesson from this latest scandal – maybe and maybe not – however other leaders sure can!

Learn more on how to be a great leader here: Leadership Checklist

About Scott Span, MSOD: is CEO & Lead Consultant of Tolero Solutions – a Leadership Effectiveness & Strategy firm.  He helps clients in achieving success through people, creating organizations where people enjoy working and customers enjoy doing business. 

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