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Leadership Corner: Mark Ulmer, EVP, Lending Operations Leadership Corner: Mark Ulmer, EVP, Lending Operations

Leadership Corner: Mark Ulmer - EVP, Lending Operations

Meet Mark Ulmer, Executive Vice President of Lending Operations. He has more than 40 years of industry experience encompassing strategic planning, business transformation, sales management, operations, and organizational effectiveness.

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When Mark Ulmer enters a room, the two questions he is almost always asked are: How tall are you, and did you play basketball? He is ready with the answer! “Six foot, seven and a half inches. And, yes.”

Mark joined Freedom Mortgage in 2016 as a member of the Call Center Operations leadership team, and he quickly became known for his distinctive leadership style as well as his stature.

“My job is to make sure my team is successful. The focus is on them and their success. It must be personal.”

Mark is the son of a pastor and spent most of his childhood in Southern California, where he would attend college and grad school. Once he embarked on a career in the mortgage industry, he had a steep career progression. “I have been at this for 41 years. When I started as a commissioned loan officer in 1980, conforming interest rates were 11.625% in July, and by December, they were up to almost 18%. They went up in such a hurry because inflation was through the roof.”

Mark advanced through the industry and sought leadership opportunities. He aimed to become embedded with a national company, as opposed to a regional one, which is where he got his start. “Companies were getting so big that you had to specialize in sales or operations. I took my sales management skills and applied them to ops. For the last 20 years, I have focused more on the operational aspect.”

Mark sees his role as setting the table as best as he can for the benefit of his colleagues. He also takes time to mentor. These are hallmarks of a leader, but we asked him specifically: What have you learned over your career that taught you to be a successful leader? Are there any methods or quotes that you put into practice? 

“There are three keys: the first is know yourself; the second is know yourself, and the third is know yourself! Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are something that you are not. You need to do a self-evaluation and have a realistic understanding of strengths and weaknesses. The key is to leverage your strengths and shore up your weaknesses so that you are not hindered by them.

When it comes to leadership styles, it is best done more situationally. There are different times for different styles. When you are goal-setting, you need to be directive. Layout goals and make them clear. You need to be sure that people know what success looks like – take the time to plan and be able to articulate your goal in a way that each person can understand what they will need to do to make success a reality.

The time to be collaborative/participative comes in with the implementation. It can be good to start off with a position on how to accomplish a goal, but this is where you need collaboration from those who are going to actually deliver it. A good leader will get an idea started but then counts on the team to make the plan better or figure out another way altogether.

There is an overall approach called servant leadership. Author and salesperson Zig Ziglar has a saying: ‘you can get everything in life that you want if you help enough other people get what they want.’ My job is to make sure my team is successful. The focus is on them and their success. It must be personal. 

It’s also important to value diversity and recognize the wealth of what others offer. I aim to foster an environment for collaboration and come up with the best solutions. 

Everyone in the group has a part to play. A part of leadership is helping each team member perform at their highest level. Like any good coach, a good leader will help each team member excel to a level beyond where the member would push themselves. Good leaders need to recognize potential and help it to develop and mature.”

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