No matter what, accidents happen. The insurance industry has been around for a long time, and it will continue for generations to come. And although some methods haven’t changed much over time, the industry has created some innovative leaders driving their people and organizations to great success and teaching the rest of us how to lead in a challenging industry.
Jeff Dailey is an insurance veteran with more than 30 years in the industry, starting as a claims adjuster and working his way up to Farmers Insurance CEO. He oversees 20,000 employees and 45,000 independent agents around the world. I had the chance to chat with him about the future of leadership and what it will take to succeed as a leader in the future. He’s one of the amazing CEOs I interviewed for my recent best-selling book, The Future Leader.
Insurance is known for being a fairly traditional industry, but I appreciate Jeff’s ability to try new things and look towards the future. Although he has been in the industry for longer than some of his employees have been alive, he is still always learning and looking for ways to improve and grow, both as a company and as an individual. His insights into the future of leadership showed his wisdom and eye towards the future.
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Here are three things I learned from Jeff about the future of leadership:
1. Inclusivity brings opportunities. Jeff told me this: “Ultimately the goal of every leader should be to allow everybody to contribute to the best of their possible potential, and to the extent that you’re not inclusive, that becomes impossible to do.” In an inclusive, organization, everyone has a chance to contribute and grow, which opens doors to innovation and progress. I’ve learned that diversity is simply about having a mix of people but inclusion is about making sure that all of those people like they belong.
2. Leaders must separate the important from the unimportant. Information is growing at an exponential rate, which means it is getting more and more challenging for leaders to keep up. Jeff says leaders of the future need to have systems in place to synthesize information. In order to stay ahead of all the new information, leaders need to be able to focus on what’s important and ignore things that aren’t important. One effective way to do this is to allow those around you to come forward with ideas. Let them bring forward what they see and hear in the world around them.
3. Change management skills are essential. Jeff is a veteran to leadership positions and says the old advice was to get your team moving towards something and plow towards the goal, no matter what. In the past, leaders could be considered good just by staying the course and ignoring the noise around them, but that’s no longer the case. Jeff says leaders of the future need to be much more adaptable to change and have strong change management skills. That means not only being agile and adaptable, but also being able to lead people so they can pivot and change quickly. Future leaders need to get people to understand the reason for quick changes and encourage them to be able to continue working towards a goal even if that goal changes. I learned about one of the most effective ways to do this from Frances Frei, a Harvard Professor and former SVP of Leadership at Uber. She told me that if you want to make change happen, you must first honor the past instead of simply trying to change it and get rid of it.
Jeff’s experience shows that in order to succeed in the future, leaders must be agile, focused, and inclusive. Even in the most long-standing industries, future leaders have to adapt and be willing to move.
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