CEO reveals what it takes to be an effective leader – Insurance Business

Leadership is never more important than when an organisation is facing an uncertain time, or a crisis. Since the world was plunged into uncertainty at the start of 2020, businesses, governments and individuals have all examined what it means to be an effective leader – and, according to one insurance CEO, it is all about having the confidence to make hard decisions, taking ownership, and driving results.
Partners Life CEO Naomi Ballantyne (pictured), who spoke at the Women in Insurance Summit 2021, said that being a good leader takes a lot of hard work – but primarily, it takes personal strength of character.
“Leadership is about influencing people to follow you,” Ballantyne said.
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“In your business, you will be leading people in all sorts of ways because you are a boss, a mentor, an advocate for change, or a trusted adviser. Based on my experience in leadership, there’s no book or training course that will substitute for the fact that to be a great leader, one actually has to lead people to results that would not have otherwise been possible.”
“Principally, to be that leader takes strength of character,” she explained.
“I think where I’ve ended up in life is the product of my physical capability and health, a pinch of good fortune, but mostly the strength of my character.
“The thing that I’ve actually had control over is whether I choose to consistently do the right thing, even when it would be easier, quicker or more comfortable to behave in another way that might not be quite so right for others, or even myself in the long run.”
Ballantyne said that one common misconception of leadership is that it “comes with the job”, when, in reality, maintaining trust among staff when times get tough takes a lot of hard work.
She said that in a time of crisis, employees need to feel like they are in safe hands – and that is achieved by confident decision-making, and taking ownership of any missteps.
“One other thing I learned is that leadership does not come with the territory,” she said.
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“A title or a job doesn’t make you, or anyone else, a leader. Leadership takes a lot of hard work, and people can really misconstrue what a leadership role is.”
“Success comes from many long hours and a lot of hard thinking and doing, including the need to make decisions even when you’re not 100% sure what the right answer is,” she said.
“For people to trust that you are someone they should follow, they have to know that when the boat stops with you, you will own it and you will lead them. This is especially critical in times of crisis.
“If you can’t make decisions and follow them through, no-one will feel safe being led by you. For me, accepting that if any decision I made was not 100% right it can always be changed or amended along the way, gave me the confidence to take that lead.”
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“We’re able to draw on the broad range of experience that we’ve had with these kinds of events all over the world”
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