Keeping up with change is tough. In an industry rife with relatively conservative thinking, unless you are really looking for it, the majority of career changes experienced by C-level insurance executives may be hard to notice. A look at Insurance Networking News' Watercooler section of its Web site, however, tells another story. Here, executive-level HR announcements abound, and seem to have no direct correlation to the timing of insurance industry market factors.

There are many reasons that factor into a CEO's decision to move; some to avoid the consequences of poor decision-making, some to perceived greener (read: dollars) pastures. Some move because they are bored; having succeeded at the task at hand, they seek new challenges. Oddly, few move out of the industry. Instead, they move around-often bringing their particular skill sets, long-term successes and lessons learned with them to a larger insurance enterprise, to an insurance technology vendor or to a consulting role.

David Nadler, Ph.D., believes that this type of change (in the form of movement) may occur when a CEO is asked to change-to lead, think and behave in a fundamentally new way, and does not have the skill set to accommodate the request. Most often, this is the result of a company's response to a problem that is new or different than the one the CEO was hired to solve.

Having formed Delta Consulting Group in 1980, Nadler brings long-term success and its associated authority to his role as a consultant at Pittsburgh-based Mercer Delta Consulting (the result of Delta Consulting joining Marsh & McLennan Cos.). Today, when not actively participating as Marsh & McLennan's vice chair, he spends his time researching, writing and lecturing on CEO leadership.

Last June, Nadler lectured at the 11th annual Wharton Leadership Conference (Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania) on the subject of "why CEOs must evolve or step aside."

According to Nadler's model, a CEO's tenure follows a "natural arc," which begins when the CEO is hired to solve the problems presented. Often he is perceived to be solid in the area where the company most needs help, whether that's changing the culture or delivering on a promise of innovation.

Much like a stage play, the CEO's tenure is an ongoing performance-with a series of distinct acts, notes Nadler. How long the CEO rides the top of that arc depends on his ability to recognize that things are changing, successfully assess his own capabilities, objectively hear what others have to say, and close the gap between his vision, the board's vision and their company's reality. It's in the transition from one act to another that success is won or lost. If it's lost, it usually means a career change.

Is this expectation realistic? Should we expect our chief executive to be a jack-of-all-trades, or a one-act CEO?

In reviewing our Web site's Watercooler, it's obvious that many insurance executives believe that change is a good thing.

(c) 2008 Insurance Networking News and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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