Recently I had the privilege of talking to one of the committee chairs of the Council on Litigation Management (CLM) National Women’s Forum about our personal and collective commitment to professional development in claims. At some point, the conversation meandered to the subject of leadership. Anticipating that she would relay a potent panacea of ideal characteristics, strategies, and behaviors, I was surprised when she stressed that there is neither a fixed solution nor an endpoint.
Even more intriguing was the fact that she refrained from using small buzz words with big meanings, such as “innovation” and “vision.” Instead, she emphasized the value of self-assessment and how the path to success is paved by not trying to emulate the leadership style of someone else but rather by identifying your own strengths, defining a style accordingly, and working from there. There is no final destination, only a continuous evolution.
All too often leadership is enshrouded in mystery. To be a “leader” means to be part of an elite club embodying almost superhuman attributes. The overwhelming improbability of ever measuring up to an abstract list of traits can cause even the most confident to buckle under pressure. Perhaps what is more inspiring and downright practical is the notion that a leader, though effective, is, alas, not perfect.
Charismatic, knowledgeable, and yes, fallible, leaders are all around us—at various levels of your organization, from the claims adjuster to the senior vice president. Leaders, like professionals, take responsibility and are ultimately accountable. By taking an inventory of your professional and communication skills, you are in a better position to embrace creative solutions early on that will not only benefit the organization and meet the stipulations of the policy but will also work in the insured’s best interest in the long run.
So, instead of brooding over perceived weaknesses, draw upon what works for you and perfect your own style. Make a concerted effort to identify what you need to learn to propel your own career and those of your staff. Are you merely coasting along in your current position, hoping that someone will notice your innate excellence? How can you empower and inspire your claims team?
This past month, Sargent Shriver, one of the great humanitarians in our nation’s history, died. Throughout his outstanding career of public service, Shriver held many illustrious titles—founder of the Peace Corps, commanding general of the War on Poverty, vice presidential candidate—but one simple title he earned each and every day was that of a leader, one who was capable of mobilizing his foot soldiers by appealing to their best nature.
His noble compulsion was to shape a better reality instead of bemoaning flawed policy or circumstance. Now it’s time for you to take responsibility for your own reality.