There is no doubt these are trying times for insurance company leaders and employees alike. The oft-quoted motivational adage that with crisis comes opportunity has become an overused cliché in the current environment.

The reality is there is no greater need for strong leadership than in times of crisis. When things are going reasonably well, sins of omission and commission are often overlooked as a company and its employees move past bumps in the road. Budgets are not scrutinized to the same degree in prosperous times, and technology investments by insurance company IT departments are not squeezed for the same ROI when things are going well. But under the stress of crisis, the luxury to overlook or turn a blind eye does not exist.  
Today, every decision’s impact is amplified by the urgency of the situation. One step in the wrong direction can lead to dire financial consequences, and as a result, there is a strong tendency to shore up decision-making and leadership in general, with thorough analysis and careful progress in an attempt to avoid a misstep. An increased emphasis on metrics for business and IT projects has insurance executives spending great quantities of time justifying expenditures. In reality, it is the counterintuitive that is needed right now. Leading in times of crisis requires action more than analysis, and speed more than care. The missed opportunity has at least as much potential impact under the stress of turbulence as the step in the wrong direction.
Dr. John Bruhn’s 2004 article in The Health Care Manager, “Leaders Who Create Change and Those Who Manage It: How Leaders Limit Success,” highlights the characteristics of leadership necessary to navigate the changes demanded by challenging times. More specifically, he profiles the philosophical contradiction between leading and managing change.
“Leading change is not simply a matter of a leader’s style or personality; it is a leader’s philosophy of how to generate and mobilize the total resources of an organization to enable it to be its best,” wrote Bruhn.

“Managing change, on the other hand, is focused on maintaining the stability in an organization and containing the effects of unwanted and unexpected change.”
There can be no doubt that we face change of immeasurable diversity and impact in our industry. While attempting to maintain stability as a change manager may be the choice of some, there is a need for change leaders within the organizations looking to survive and thrive.

This blog has been reprinted with permission from Robert E. Nolan Co. Steven Callahan is a senior consultant and practice development director in Robert E. Nolan's management consultant practice, and can be reached at

The opinions posted in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News or SourceMedia.

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