What is a L.E.A.D.E.R.?     

By Lisa R Hardin, CPCU, CPIW, AIC, AIS, ACR, AINS, SCLA, DAE, CLP         
Claims Specialist, Sentry Insurance

We’ve all had a supervisor, director or even a CEO who’s in a position of power but isn’t a leader. Someone who micro-manages everyone’s work, watches over your shoulder all the time, doesn’t trust you or your abilities, and never allows you to grow beyond your current role.  And then turns around and takes credit for all your hard work.

We’ve also all known that frontline associate who has the respect of everyone in the office. They may not be in a “leadership” role, but they are a leader in their own right. They support you and point you in the right direction. They help make you better. We can all also recall that one manager who got us, challenged us and encouraged us to grow then celebrated with us when we got that next promotion.   

The differences between these “leaders” seems obvious, but a true leader, no matter their actual title, has the qualities of a L.E.A.D.E.R. What exactly are those qualities? 

L is for Listen. A true leader listens. They actually hear what you say. When they ask for an opinion or advice, they are truly asking for your input because they recognize they don’t have all the answers. They seek out information to help them make the best decision. And they give credit where credit is due.  

E is for Enthusiasm. Enthusiasm and passion are two sides of the same coin. True leaders have an enthusiasm and passion for the work they do. They want to succeed but they also want everyone around them to succeed. They get excited when they’re engaged with people who share the same interests or who add value to the conversation. When someone comes up with an idea that propels the movement forward, they embrace it.

A is for Attitude. As the saying goes “Attitude is Everything”. We’ve all come across a “Negative Nellie/Nelson” in our lives. That person who only sees only the downside in every situation, will never accept change and would rather spend their day complaining about how it should be done then actually being productive. But we can also all name a person who consistently looks at the positive side, accepts change for what it is – inevitable – and makes it work. Which person tends to be more successful?  Which person do you prefer to work with? Which one are you?

D is for Determination. Determination is the quality that pushed us towards our goals. A true leader with determination pushes their team towards success but also recognizes how the strengths of each person moves the team or company forward. They capitalize on those strengths to the benefit of the overall goal. A true leader doesn’t seek glory for themselves, but sees a job well done as a reflection on their skills to bring the appropriate team together for the task at hand. A true leader chooses the right people for the job at hand.  

E is for Education. A true leader recognizes that education is an ongoing process. Things change and evolve and it’s important to remain vigilant. While it’s not important to be current on every change within our industry, a true leader recognizes those who are experts in their fields and seeks their expertise to make decisions and plan for the future.

R is for Respect. This may be the most important quality of a true leader. True leaders are not only respected themselves, but they respect others in return. They know respect is not given lightly and that it must be earned, not demanded. Respect is earned by one’s actions, not by simply having a certain title or position. A true leader also knows respect can be lost in an instant, again because of one’s actions. Respect is a powerful tool, to be used wisely and responsibility.  

In summary, a true leader listens to others, is enthusiastic about the subject matter or task at hand, maintains a positive attitude, is determined to succeed with the help of others, values ongoing education and has earned respect due to their actions.

Leadership development is one of the strongholds of IAIP membership, along with Education and Networking. As an organization we promote ourselves as leadership developers and have proven it with the Certified Leadership Professional (CLP) and Advanced Certified Leadership Professional (CLP-A) designations.

Think about it for a minute – Certified Leadership Professional – and the weight it carries. In awarding the CLP or CLP-A designation, IAIP certifies that recipients have taken the time to examine themselves and their work ethic, have resolved to be more professional not only in their interactions with traditional customers but anyone they work with on a day-to-day basis. And they understand what it means to be a L.E.A.D.E.R. 

What other organization can make this statement? None that I know of. IAIP is unique in its commitment to preparing the leaders of the future, regardless if they stay in the insurance/risk management industry or not. As an organization, IAIP recognizes effective leaders are not always found in traditional leadership roles and that leadership skills are transferable to ANY organization. This is part of our IAIP foundation. Now we must build on it.

Lisa graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1988 with a B.S in Business Administration-Finance. She’s worked for Sentry Insurance since 1990 and is currently a Claims Specialist handling large liability losses for Sentry’s National Accounts. Lisa joined IAIP in 1994 as a member of Mid-Wisconsin Insurance Association and is a past RVP for Region V. Lisa is currently serving as IAIP International Vice President.

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