The idea of leadership is often misunderstood, especially in the insurance industry.
In my 15 years of being an insurance agent, I rarely thought of myself as a leader. In my mind, I was “just an agent.” What a terrible mistake. That's because I didn't fully understand the true definition and role of leadership.
I thought that “true” leadership was awarded, appointed or assigned. I thought that leadership only came with an impressive title or position.
The reality is that none of those things are true.
If you have ethical influence with those around you, then you are a leader. If you don't, no title or position will make up for your lack of influence. As the proverb says, “He who thinks he leads but has no followers is simply out taking a walk.”
Leadership comes in various shapes and sizes. Every day you could be leading your family, your team, your prospects, your clients, your community, or your neighbor. Leadership is influence.
Leaders at any level
If leadership is influence, what are the traits that can help you become a better leader regardless of whether you are a CEO, VP, agency principal, sales manager, producer, or service representative?
Here are seven traits of authentic insurance leaders:
The first test of any true leader is how they lead themselves. Before you can lead and influence anyone else, you must first be able to lead yourself. Character itself is influence.
In today's fast and technological world, building authentic relationships is often overlooked. Strong relationships are foundational for any leader. Relationships are influence.
Knowledge won't make you a leader, but without it you can't lead effectively. An influential leader has vision, an understanding of facts, and keeps up to date on industry changes. Knowledge is influence.
Intuitiveness is hard to define, but is vital for any leader. You must know more than just facts and data to lead. You must be able to trust your “feelings” and act when your gut is telling you that there is low energy, poor timing, or lost momentum. Intuition is influence.
The more you experience, the more you can share. However, you can't just experience each day; you must also spend time in reflection to turn that experience into insight. Evaluated experience allows you to add more value to those around you. Experience is influence.
6. Past success
Every win you have in life and business builds credibility and influence. People want to know what you have done and what you have achieved. Small wins build into larger wins and give you momentum. Past success is influence.
Your followers want to know that you can help them. How can you make their lives better? Demonstrating your ability and willingness to serve others increases your influence. You may be helping an employee, solving a problem for your client, or adding premium growth with a partner company. Ability is influence.
Leadership is often misunderstood, but that does not reduce its impact. If you have influence (and you do), you are a leader. Apply and improve upon these seven traits of leadership to your life and business and increase your influence. The world and the insurance industry needs your leadership now more than ever.