Amazing Outside Directors 2023: Laura Boyd

Laura Boyd, founder and CEO of Leadership Delta, considers herself blessed to sit on the board of St. Paul, Minn.-based BankCherokee alongside people she dubs “brilliant souls.” Boyd joined the board of the 115-year-old bank just four years ago (though time might be measured differently when one factors in a global pandemic). And while Boyd’s governance chops are still developing, she brings to her role a burnished reputation in leadership and culture development, along with a passion for supporting and empowering female professionals, which fits well with the values of the family-owned community bank.

Laura Boyd

Boyd has been named a BankBeat magazine 2023 “Amazing Outside Director.” 

Boyd is not completely green in the ways of community banking. For a dozen years, she served on a Market Advisory Board for Chaska, Minn.-based KleinBank (until it was sold to Indiana-based Old National in 2018). That work “gave a good sense for how lending happens, how important regulations and compliance [are], and understanding the community…” she said. Importantly, it showed Boyd that as a bank, you should do what you can and recognize that you cannot do everything. 

As a customer, the transition from a community bank to a regional bank showed Boyd the difference between transactional banking and the creative, high-touch service that is the hallmark of community banking. “I can see the difference.”

Boyd met BankCherokee Chair Heidi Gesell in the early 2000s when they both were actively supporting women-in-business initiatives.

A BankCherokee creative partnership Boyd is especially keen to discuss is My Founder Story, a social enterprise dedicated to empowering female business owners through storytelling, workshops and coaching. My Founder Story emerged when its founder saw women struggling to explain their business plans while seeking funding.

Boyd understands the power of storytelling. She was compelled to leave her mid-career position at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce to launch Leadership Delta after observing gender disparities at her family’s church. It was during her son’s confirmation ceremony that she noticed how the eighth grade boys muddled their way through the ceremony while the eighth grade girls were poised and delivered eloquent testimonies. That flips eight years later, she says. When asked by friends to meet with their male and female children as they prepared to launch post-collegiate careers, “the young men are almost overly confident at that stage, while confidence is just not there for the young women.” 

Through Leadership Delta, Boyd has built a consulting firm that capitalizes on her background in organizational leadership and her passion for supporting women. She’s worked to understand the factors that cause women to doubt themselves and their abilities and coaches them to overcome imposter syndrome. She prefers “Believe to Achieve” over “Fake It ’Till You Make It” as a mantra for women struggling to gain confidence. 

Her leadership firm serves manufacturers, professional firms (CPAs and architects) and financial services companies. Working with CPAs helps her better understand banks, said Boyd, who started her career with CLA (then LarsonAllen); she counts financial institutions among her clients. Her business focuses on building human-centered cultures, and her approach is being applied at BankCherokee. 

“One of the key parts is succession planning,” she said. True for any business. “Community banks need to ask: What’s our strategy? What’s the bench strength? And figure out if they have the right people in the right spots so they can build their leadership team.”

Boyd has earned the respect of the BankCherokee team. “I have witnessed her push a lot of people out of their comfort zone,” said Vanessa Mauer, who heads up retail banking at the $370 million bank. Discomfort is often the emotion that bubbles up in conversations about succession. Boyd gets it. But as a self-described expert in change management, Boyd feels she is perfectly suited to help BankCherokee, any organization really, assess, strategize and develop both leaders and teams for growth.

Boyd is actively involved and a board member of Team Women, a nonprofit that offers young women programming on leadership development and community. She also developed and teaches Social Entrepreneurship at Crown College in St. Bonifacius, Minn. “Our world is shifting to a philanthropic model where giving is not just done personally, but also through your company,” Boyd explained. “That’s exactly what BankCherokee does.”

BankCherokee has the distinction of having family ownership for more years than any other community bank in its market. “The nature of who they are as a culture, how they go to the Nth degree, and how they allow their clients to be creative, or give them some grace, that’s exciting,” Boyd said. Being at ease in her role as director compels her to embrace the special nature of BankCherokee in order to help tell its story, and to help it build a culture of strong leaders so it can move it forward. “The bank can’t be there for the community if it’s not there.”