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Community Leadership: Giving That Pays

In a recent InsuranceNewsNet article, I discussed the value of volunteering in your community. In this issue, I would like to take the discussion a step further, to the value of assuming a leadership role.

It is usually difficult to find dedicated volunteers, and it is even more difficult to find those who are willing to assume leadership roles. Have you ever heard anyone in any organization say that their group has too many leaders?

Why should you be interested in a volunteer leadership position? First of all, you should be a leader in an organization whose mission statement dovetails nicely with your beliefs. If your interests are not aligned with the mission of the organization, do not get involved. You will eventually be perceived as a carpetbagger, as an opportunist.

Leadership in a community organization provides 1) an opportunity to give back, 2) a training ground for developing personal skills important within your business and 3) a way to enhance your reputation in the community.

What do you have to give? That can be summed up in “time, treasure and talent” or “work, wealth and wisdom.” Surely, you will need to give of your “time” or perform some “work.” There will be moments when you may be counted on for a financial contribution, which is your “treasure” or “wealth.” And, I hope, you will bring some “talent” or “wisdom” developed during previous business and volunteer roles.

In this world, there are givers and takers. We are familiar with both types. Givers make that extra effort to help, often unsolicited. My “taker” example is an agent who used to work with me, who constantly took candy from my secretary’s candy dish, never adding to it. And when we played tennis, he never provided the tennis balls.

What skills do you develop? Public speaking is an important skill, one that is needed in even the smallest organization.

The larger the organization, the more you will need to know Robert’s Rules of Order.

Then you must pay attention to the organization’s mission statement, vision, goals and strategic plan. In addition, there is the need to be able to work closely with the disparate personalities, experiences and skills of the organization’s board members and general membership. And perhaps there will be the need to write for those inside and outside your organization.

By assuming a strong leadership role, you will enhance your reputation in the community. Often, you will enhance your reputation in ways never revealed to you, perhaps during informal conversations among members. You may be asked to write an article for a local newspaper, participate in a panel discussion or appear in a photograph with other local leaders. Just remember that these occasions are a result of your strong leadership role, not the objective.

A research study by the Shapiro Group and Market Street Services showed that when consumers know a small business is a member of their local chamber of commerce, they are 44 percent more likely to think favorably of it. And if an individual from the company sits on the chamber board, consumers are 12 percent more likely to think that the company’s products beat those of the competition. The consumer infers that the company is trustworthy, involved in the community and an industry leader. This redounds favorably to the individual leader involved.

Might you fail in a leadership role? Possibly. Abraham Lincoln failed in business twice and failed in seeking political office a number of times before becoming president in 1860. Winston Churchill was out of office from 1928 until 1940 and, despite his unwavering leadership during World War II, was defeated again as the war ended.

Recently, I was asked to resume the role of president of our local business association. Shortly thereafter, a member whom I had recently met and recruited as one of our chairs asked me for a $1 million life insurance quote on her husband. I can only assume that I was given this opportunity because of my leadership role.

In a recent survey conducted by Prudential, more than 80 percent of respondents said that referrals were the best way to generate new clients. No surprise there! The next best way was to volunteer in the community. No other activity was remotely close.

Remember that you only “rent,” not own, your leadership role. The role is that of a “servant,” to be transformational, to increase the value of the organization by utilizing the skills of the members. As Peter Drucker said, a leader wants to make the strengths of the members effective and the weaknesses irrelevant.

The effective leader leads. He creates a vision with the help of others, selects strong committee chairpersons, then delegates, communicates, motivates and thanks, frequently, those who also serve.

Insurance salespersons are conspicuous in their communities for being involved. By assuming increasingly important leadership roles and performing them well, you enhance your visibility and reputation. And reputation is the sine qua non of our profession.

If you can give honestly to an organization with no expectation of immediate reward, you will eventually be rewarded, sometimes in the approbation of those you serve, sometimes in the new clients drawn to you, but mostly in the satisfaction of a job well done. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is one of the most wonderful compensations in this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

Edward C. Auble, CLU, ChFC, MSFS, FLMI, LUTCF, CASL, joined AIG in 1972 and managed overseas operations, primarily in the Caribbean and the Middle East. He is past president of NAIFA-Pennsylvania and owner of Auble Financial in Paoli, Pa. Contact him at [email protected] [email protected].

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