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Robert Fisher’s Legacy of Servant Leadership
/ Categories: Employee Spotlight

Robert Fisher’s Legacy of Servant Leadership

Stories of employees spending their entire career with a single company have become very rare. Even rarer are those in which the employee starts at the bottom and reaches the very top. But such is the case for Robert M. Fisher, who is retiring this month as President and CEO of Lake-Osceola State Bank. He will continue to serve as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors.

Fisher has been with the bank for 40 years, having joined as a young teller in 1983.

Almost immediately, he began asking for opportunities to learn new things and different aspects of bank operations. This appetite for learning caught the attention of the Bookkeeping Supervisor at the time, and Fisher soon added bookkeeping duties to his job description.

From there, he moved into Loan Collections as preparation for being a Loan Officer. As he proved his effectiveness and expanded his desire to learn, he became Assistant Cashier and then Chief Lending Officer of the bank.

Lake-Osceola State Bank was founded in 1908, and by the 1990s was in its third generation of family leadership. Deborah Smith-Olson, then CEO, recently reflected on Fisher’s career. The first thing on her mind was that “he was always a good teammate, and we complemented each other so well. From new branches, new loan products and new initiatives, Bob was always ready for new ideas.”

Appointed President in 2005, Fisher’s steady hand guided the bank through the 2008-2010 recession, Smith-Olson remembers. “He had a lot on his plate during a very disruptive time in the industry and in the state,” she says.

“I would describe him as a participatory leader. He was hands-on all the time up to his elbows. He gave us all a book on servant leadership, and he really led that way. He would support, not dictate. He believed leaders should help people.”

Lake-Osceola State Bank added 7 locations during Fisher’s tenure at the helm, expanding the bank’s footprint into Mecosta, Osceola, Manistee and Oceana Counties, including several communities other banks had chosen to leave.

Board member Seth Wenger has been on the Board of Directors since 2010 and has known Fisher for 25 years. “I see Bob as a mentor and friend. He has such a calm demeanor and really unites people.”

“When I walk in his office, I know he has millions of things to be doing but his open door policy is just amazing,” Wenger continues. “I don’t know how he balances so many responsibilities between the bank and the community.”

Community involvement has spanned many nonprofit boards, including an instrumental role with the founding of Baldwin Promise and attracting physicians to Lake County through the Baldwin Family Health Care initiative.

Fisher was named Chief Executive Officer in 2018, taking on additional duties from Smith-Olson as she retired. Around the same time, he was elected to the Board of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis, a source of equitable housing and lending programs. “A lot of people have no idea how important that is to our communities here,” Smith-Olson says.

It’s not surprising at a family- and locally-owned bank that business colleagues would become close personally. “He was the little brother I didn’t have,” Smith-Olson says. “My father saw him that way, too.”

Family and Faith have always been very important to Fisher. He and his wife, Laura, reside in Walkerville. They have four children and four grandchildren.

Fisher will be succeeded in his role by Scott Olson, a 27-year employee of the bank and a current member of the leadership team, most recently serving as the CFO.

A drop-in open house is being held at the bank’s home office, 790 Michigan Avenue in Baldwin, from 2-5PM on Friday, January 26. 

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