Application of effective leadership traits to insurance leaders

IN our continued quest to revisit some selected articles published earlier in the year, today, we review an article that was published on February 4, 2020, focusing on the five practices of effective leaders.
The discussion is based on the research carried out by Kouzes and Posner over an initial five year period with over 1,000 high performing leaders, establishing what made them successful.
Model the way
Modelling the way is about walking the talk.
Effective leaders are prepared to fold their sleeves, when necessary, living behaviours they want others to adopt before asking others to adopt them.
Great leaders set the pace. For example, my boss has never asked me to report early for work; I have observed his early reporting culture and was inspired to adopt it.
And this has equally trickled down to my subordinates. It is easier for followers to emulate what they see their leaders consistently do.
Effective leaders demonstrate their desired approach by setting an example for others; by behaving in ways consistent with their values and those of the organisation. Contrasted with the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach, modelling the way is the most effective approach as established by Kouzes and Posner.
In insurance, effective leaders walk the talk in terms of fulfilling their organisational goals.
For example, they demonstrate acceptable underwriting practices, excellent customer service, keep their promises, etc.
Inspire a shared vision
Leadership is about exerting influence.
There are some leaders we admire and aspire to be like them; our role models. As opposed to being motivated by fear and reward, Kouzes and Posner established that people are inspired by ideas that capture their imagination.
This goes beyond a leader having a vision. It is about effectively communicating it so that others buy-in.
Effective leaders seek to share plans and energise others with passion and enthusiasm.
They inspire people to come on board with that sense of shared purpose and vision that is uplifting; causing people to feel energised and looking forward to the future. Great leaders have a way of skillfully appealing to the values, interests, hopes and dreams of others. They can demonstrate how the input of others will contribute to the shared vision of the organisation.
Challenge the process
One of the critical issues highlighted in last week’s article is at a tremendous rate at which the insurance industry is changing.
Coupled with other emerging risks such as climate change, economic troubles, rapid technological growth is a serious call for leaders in insurance to address.
The fact that today’s systems and processes are helping some insurers remain competitive should not create a comfort zone.
Leaders need to challenge the process.
Leaders should not allow a culture of ‘business as usual’ but seek challenging opportunities to change, grow and improve both at personal and organisational levels.
Kouzes and Posner assert that leaders should experiment, take risks, and encourage others to do so.
In insurance, this could be the introduction of new products, reaching the untapped markets.
Currently, only about five per cent of the adult population has a form of insurance. This status quo needs to be challenged with a call to finding ways of reaching the untapped markets.
Leaders need to create a culture which challenges even what seems to be working by embracing new ideas from their teams.
Enable others to act
Another critical feature of effective leaders is their ability to delegate responsibility appropriately.
They do not seek to achieve everything by themselves.
They seek to identify the right people, create effective teams and achieve results through others.
When people are given responsibility with appropriate authority, they become more committed.
This also contributes to building succession plans. As the late Myles Munroe said, any leader who fails to leave a successor is a failure regardless of what they have achieved.
This is made possible when leaders enable others to act through collaboration and promoting co-operation and building trust between leaders and team members. Effective leaders ask themselves whether they have a systematic process for developing people and helping them grow in confidence and competence.
Encourage the heart
Kouzes and Posner assert that effective leaders recognise and celebrate the successes of both individuals and teams.
Great leaders avoid the temptation of taking the glory; instead, they attribute their success to their teams, thereby creating passion and enthusiasm in their followers.
The next business leaders in insurance should be aware of these five proven practices of influential leaders.
They need to model the way, share an inspired vision, challenge the process, enable others to act and encourage the heart.
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