Cultivating Leadership Characteristics at Your Insurance Agency
Who is a leader? When you think of a leader, do you think of a powerful person who pushes ideas forward? Your ideas of leadership could be getting in the way of finding and cultivating the true leaders at your insurance agency. Here's how you can help your employees move into positions of leadership within their insurance jobs, no matter what position they hold in your company.
What is Leadership?
Leadership wears many hats. The style of leadership you need can change depending on the situation. Leadership is as diverse as your employees. In one situation, you might need a charismatic leader to move an idea forward. In another situation, you might need an empathetic leader to help create calm and work through conflict in your business. What kind of leader do you need?
Hire for Potential
An article in Fast Company defines potential as "the ability to adapt to and grow into increasingly complex roles and environments." When you're creating new insurance jobs or filling roles in your existing positions, look beyond an individual's experience and use leadership potential as a filter. Often, you see resume after resume, and many of them look the same. Examine cover letters to see what traits your prospective hires highlight. Look for people who:
- Are passionate about the insurance business, not just competent in it
- Have worked to grow within a position
- Show intelligence and adaptability
- Have a combination of ambition and humility
- Are the right cultural fit with your organization
Notice Your Employees' Traits as Well as Their Skills
As you work with your employees, look beyond the work that they produce. Look at how they approach their work and their interactions with customers and colleagues. Noticing individual personality traits can help you identify areas of potential growth in your employees.
For example, if you have an employee who's constantly talking with clients or colleagues about their problems, this could seem like a productivity issue. That person should be working, right? However, if that employee is commiserating with a client or helping two colleagues solve a problem, he may be an emotional leader in your organization, and he could be making your business more productive, not less. Instead of shutting down this capacity, find a way to develop and use it.
Bringing Forward Your Insurance Leaders
Whether you're working with a new employee or you've discovered that your existing employee has latent leadership skills, how do you bring this potential to the forefront?
- Look for those who bring ideas to life and who like to catalyze new projects.
- Give the employee a trial run. Give her a situation where she has the opportunity to lead, and watch to see how this emerges.
- Encourage the employee to evaluate her successes and failures. Watch how she handles failures: according to Fast Company, "leaders aren't afraid to hold themselves accountable for failure."
- Give that employee an opportunity to work in difficult situations. Whether these situations involve complex communication, hard decisions about priorities, or multitasking, observe and support the employee as she makes her way through these challenges.
- Give your emerging leaders mentorship and coaching to help them through the trials of leadership. Help them see systems and relationships and ask difficult questions.
Leaders don't take a training course and emerge as leaders. Their skills evolve over time. As a manager, your job is to identify emerging leaders and give them the opportunities to grow their skills through action, success, failure, and reflection.
At American Agents Alliance, we know that you need the resources to help your business and your employees succeed. Take a look at our many membership benefits to see how we can support your business in its leadership development.