At the Intersection of Wealth and Leadership

It’s not what you make, it’s how you make it, and what you do with it that truly matters.

By Marty Bicknell

I’m often asked what characteristics make a great leader. While all successful leaders have their own unique qualities, I believe there are few characteristics that all leaders share. Leaders recognize that they’re often not the smartest people in the room, nor do they have all the answers. A great leader is surrounded by individuals who are passionate and truly knowledgeable about a given area. Accomplished leaders know they need to hire talented individuals, provide them structure and support, and let them execute the objectives of the firm.

At Mariner Wealth Advisors, I spend my time ensuring we are embracing our values and fostering the right culture throughout the company. I’ve organized a team of individuals, who each have a unique ability, that I trust to lead their individual departments by developing future leaders of the organization and making sure each associate knows how they fit in. 

Lead by Example

It is important for a leader to “walk the walk and talk the talk.” Associates of any organization watch leadership closely. Because of this, it is important for a leader to follow through on decisions and promises. In addition, leaders need to exude the values they are trying to instill within the culture of their organizations. Too often, leaders have the mentality that the rules don’t apply to them. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. As a leader, you are the ultimate example of the culture you are trying to create. 

Leadership is a position of power, and with great power comes great responsibility. That is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. If you, as the leader, set the right example, your associates will follow. Leadership needs to be genuine. Those who know me well would never mistake me as a stuffy, uptight, stressed-out CEO. On any given day, I probably crack more jokes than anyone in the building. I genuinely love my job because of the people we have hired and the entrepreneurial atmosphere we have created within the organization. That zest for my job and the company is infectious. Life is short; you need to love what you do. 


One of my favorite quotes is “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Whether in my personal life or my professional career, I live by this mantra. Philanthropy is a core value of our firm. It is a value shared by our clients across the country. Creating a plan for clients to fulfill their philanthropic wishes is incredibly fulfilling because it accomplishes two very important goals—reaching a goal that is important to them, and giving back to our communities.  

The sign of a great leader is knowing that you could walk away from your company today and it could continue operating without you because of the team you’ve built.

Early in my career, I was asked to be on the board of a local organization that provides care for children and adolescents who are experiencing acute crises affecting their ability to function in a safe manner in the community or at home. My initial visit to the facility left a lasting impact that fueled my desire to have a company that is grounded on philanthropic values. 

The Mariner Foundation was created shortly after I started Mariner Wealth Advisors as a way to formalize the philanthropic efforts each of our founders was participating in individually. We formed the foundation to be thoughtful and make a larger impact. In addition, it provides an opportunity for all associates to participate, whether financially or by giving their time. The goal is to give back and help those in need within the communities where we live and work. 

  • The company matches every dollar donated by associates.
  • The foundation is run by associates, and anyone within the organization can submit a grant request.
  • All associates are granted paid time off to volunteer within their community.
  • We bring opportunities to the organization where teams can volunteer together.

Strive for Improvement

To be a great leader, you need to be dedicated to self-improvement. Regardless of how successful you may be, you can always improve some aspect of your personal or professional life. In addition, it’s important to provide your teams with opportunities to improve. 

I’ve worked with a professional coach for years. I’ve found this so beneficial to my personal growth, I now provide her services to individuals on my team. I’ve seen leaders develop within our organization, in part, due to this service. I’ve also seen strong leaders become even stronger. 

I think the sign of a great leader is knowing that you could walk away from your company today and it could continue operating without you because of the team you’ve established around you.  

About the author

Marty Bicknell, a 40 Under Forty honoree in 2005, is president and CEO of Mariner Holdings in Leawood, Kan.

P| 913.904.5700