Leading From the Front Through Professional Development
The concept of “leading from the front” is not just a familiar phrase, but a fundamental principle in leadership that transcends industries and roles. Our mission as leaders remains unwavering: to illuminate the path for our teams and to guide them toward success.
In the insurance and financial services industry, where trust and integrity are paramount, leading from the front takes on even greater significance. Leaders who actively participate in some of the same tasks and challenges as their teams help instill a sense of ownership among team members.
As leaders, we do our best to check the boxes when leading from the front, and yet, many organizations find themselves struggling with succession planning and keeping employees engaged and prepared for promotion opportunities. Have we missed a box? Are we truly leading from the front when it comes to focusing on professional development and growth opportunities?
Engagement Starts with Learning and Development
Employee engagement is consistently a top priority to LOMA and LIMRA member companies and their employees. Gallup research reveals a compelling connection between effective leadership and employee engagement. A staggering 70 percent of the variance in team engagement is attributed solely to the manager — an engaged manager nurtures engaged employees. Not surprisingly, businesses with engaged workers also have 23 percent higher profit compared to business units with disengaged workers.
In a recent MarketFacts article, Carie Crane, vice president of professional development at LIMRA and LOMA, underscored the pivotal role that learning and development plays in employee engagement. Onboarding new employees, reskilling and upskilling veteran employees, and fostering a continuous learning culture cultivates self-assured, highly productive and highly engaged teams.
Leading and Learning
So, if we know that leading from the front is an effective way to build strong, cohesive teams — and if we know that encouraging and embracing learning and development opportunities increases engagement — why do we continue to see declines in employee engagement over time? As leaders, are we doing all that we can to connect the dots for ourselves, our teams and our organizations?
A 2022 survey investigated the correlation between employee satisfaction and a company’s learning culture. Out of the satisfied or highly satisfied participants, 70 percent of respondents in the U.S. said their company’s learning culture was high or good, suggesting that employees are happier when there is a strong learning environment. And, in an earlier study by the same organization, 90 percent of companies with strong learning cultures said senior executives were actively engaged in learning and development (L&D) initiatives.
According to Training Magazine, engagement begins long before any learning content is consumed. “For an L&D program to succeed with widespread employee engagement, highly ranked managers and stakeholders must set the tone. As role models, these stakeholders can inspire employees by taking an active and enthusiastic role in their learning experience and showing what lifelong dedication to learning looks like at senior levels.”
Transparency is Key
But it is not enough just to do the learning — leaders also need to talk about it. LinkedIn emphasizes the importance of sharing our learning experiences with our teams. “Sharing your learning journey with your team can build trust and rapport as you demonstrate your willingness to learn, grow and improve. … Ultimately, it can create a positive and supportive learning culture in your team that encourages curiosity, openness and continuous improvement.” Consider these examples:
- Gina Trimble, finance director at Transamerica, is a seasoned leader in both her professional and personal life. In addition to her corporate leadership, she’s a dedicated spouse and parent, recently completed an Ironman triathlon and serves on her community’s school board. In 2021, Gina set a goal for herself to earn the FLMI designation — and she achieved that goal in May 2023. During her journey, she found herself having “aha moments” in meetings — grasping complex concepts in new ways — thanks to her professional development efforts. Since earning the designation, members of her team have been inspired to pursue it too. “I don’t have time” is no longer a valid excuse in her presence.
- Another example: OneAmerica encourages professional development by prioritizing the FLMI designation for staff. Chris Meisner, regional vice president – Commercial Mortgage Loans, earned his FLMI designation so he could become more observant of life insurance business processes that could impact the investment side of the business. Earning the FLMI also satisfied his thirst for problem-solving and helped ensure that he was never in a meeting where he didn’t have at least a basic answer to a question. Meisner's commitment to continuous learning is evident: “As a lifelong learner, I wanted material that would help my team grow, help my company succeed and help my own career path so I can best direct and lead my team. The FLMI was a perfect fit.”
- Earlier this year, LIMRA and LOMA President and CEO Dave Levenson also earned his FLMI designation. Dave was eager to experience the FLMI learning platform firsthand. He aspired to join the ranks of the 100,000-plus industry professionals who gained a broader perspective of the life insurance industry through the FLMI program. “I’ve been part of this industry for more than 30 years. Despite that, I learned a lot of new things by taking FLMI courses that I know will help me in my role. I’m hopeful that others will decide to pursue the FLMI and am confident it will provide valuable insights to all who do.” Dave's achievement stands as a powerful testament to his commitment to professional development and has inspired many at LIMRA and LOMA to pursue their own learning opportunities.
Embrace the Journey
As we continue to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of leadership, let us remember that our commitment to lead from the front in all areas, including professional development, is not a static goal but a continuous journey. By investing in our own development and sharing those experiences with others, we not only light the way for our team members, but also inspire and empower them to thrive.
Leading from the front in professional development is not just a box to check; it’s an enduring commitment to excellence that defines exceptional leadership.