Becoming a Leader

By: Kevin Ward, SCLA, Vice President & Director of Operations at Century Insurance Company, LTD.

Is there a right way and a wrong way?  Early on in your career in the insurance industry, one has to face that fork in the road: Do I want to continue on the path of my “technical” career or look into opportunities in supervision and management roles? They say there are naturally born leaders who can step right in and take charge or leaders who develop oneself with training and coursework. Whatever line of business you work in, be it claims, underwriting, loss control, premium audit or other areas, you will feel your niche and comfort zone.

I come from an era of insurance and a large national company of its day, that when they tapped you on the shoulder to move to another location or city, you went.  What I will say, is that by having the opportunity to work in different areas of the country, you grow and learn culturally different avenues of life and leadership. I’m not saying move if you are tapped. Only you will know if it’s right for you. You also do not have to become a supervisor, manager, director or other management type of position to become a leader.

You can be a leader with understanding the needs of people in any position you choose in your career in the insurance field.  As I mentioned earlier, is there a right way and a wrong way?  Yes. Always listen to the questions and concerns of insureds or others respond to them, and if you do not know the answer, it’s okay to say, "I will get back to you."

One thing is for sure in the insurance field: You will always be learning! Don't be fooled to think you know everything just because you read a policy once or an article……always review! Make time for your staff if you’re in management. Everyone is busy, and for your peoples' success, keep that door open to your office. Yes, there are times privacy is needed, such as for HR matters, but other times, you’re not that important. Be a leader and get out on the floor and meet with your staff. The old saying of "MBWA” (management by walking around) is important besides just saying hi and getting coffee in the break room.

Be clear on your messages, and be decisive on decisions. Courage to drive the bus full of passengers on a high cliff is not for everyone, but if you decide to do it, don’t be afraid to show some passion and a little humbleness on the path to the end of the road. Get there together as a team.

When you come to that fork in the road, (and really it does not even have to be at the beginning of a career) take the road that will challenge you. You know what you want, and be passionate about on how you will get there.  So is there right way and a wrong way in leadership?  Never forget where you came from and always be a coach. It’s okay to have tried something that did not work. Your thoughts and actions to move in the right direction of leadership after that will follow you through the rest of your career.

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