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The importance of leadership

Throughout the history of finance, the most successful banks have often been associated with a single leader. These individuals have usually combined a clear strategic vision – or should that be mission, such is their zeal for success – with a real understanding of the minutiae of their business. Their names have been a byword for the businesses they have run. Today, it's harder than ever before for one man or woman to have such complete control of the reins of power. Ownership is widespread. Corporate governance has taken a strong hold over boardroom actions.

But if you know where you want to go, and want to get there fast, there's nothing like a strong leader to help you do it.

Take the winners of the main two categories in Euromoney's Awards for Excellence 2005. Emilio Botín is the third generation of his family to run Santander. In less than 20 years as chairman, he's taken it from an unknown Cantabrian minnow to one of the world's top 10 banks by market capitalization.

Botín's critics – and like all successful people, he has many – would say he still runs the firm almost as a family business, even though his actual ownership of the firm is now minuscule.

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