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Management Strategies

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Kathy Burger
Kathy Burger
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The Once & Future Insurance IT Leader

Insurance & Technology's 2014 Elite 8 CIOs have what it takes to lead in a changing and challenging business environment.

There still may be debates over whether or not IT matters, but there is no disputing that leadership matters. This elusive but critical concept can influence everything that is important to the success of a business, including productivity, compliance, customer service, sales, and morale. Strong leadership can help make the most of limited staff, budget, and time resources; weak leadership can squander the most generous funding and resources.

[7 Keys to Insurance Tech Leadership]

"Leader," of course, is not synonymous with "executive." There are many top executives who are experienced and capable, but not effective leaders. True leadership requires a number of characteristics, not just professional competence but also abilities that are less tangible, such as an ability to inspire or a keen sense of future risks and opportunities.

Leadership authority Roxi Bahar Hewertson identifies four core tenets of leadership in her book Lead Like It Matters... Because It Does. These are:

  • Personal mastery -- “your purpose, values and vision, how you affect others, your style, preferences, strengths and challenges”
  • Interpersonal mastery --“excellent communication and people management skills that engage, motivate and inspire employees”
  • Team mastery --“harness the power of group dynamics to build stronger, more productive teams”
  • Culture and systems mastery --“you need to know, not guess or project, what the culture really is and how it actually affects your people and overarching business results"

The foundation for these capabilities combines confidence and humility, passion and rationality, vision and focus. With all these demands, it shouldn’t be surprising that leadership sometimes is hard to identify in unsettled industries such as financial services. But fortunately for the insurance industry, we are seeing it all come together in many carriers’ IT organizations, where opportunities around digital channels, analytics and data, and emerging competitive challenges are spurring some of the most aggressive and innovative initiatives on record.

It’s exemplified by Insurance & Technology’s 2014 Elite 8 honorees: eight insurance technology executives who are redefining the role of IT (and IT leadership) at their organizations. In addition to the profiles included in this year’s Elite 8 digital issue, they will be honored at I&T’s 2014 Executive Summit, “The Agile Insurer: Speed, Insight, Engagement,” Nov. 9-11, at The St. Regis Bal Harbour in Miami.

These talented individuals are forging new paths for insurance CIOs that combine proficiency at some of the long-standing requirements of the job -- project management and delivery and vendor management, for example -- with emerging imperatives around mobility, data mastery, and organizational agility. Additionally, the Elite 8 executives bring multi-disciplinary backgrounds to their jobs, enabling them to draw, not only on computer science knowledge, but also on areas such as music and the military to identify best-practices and strategies for replicable success.

Leadership may be an elusive concept, but it’s something I&T’s 2014 Elite 8 honorees have aced. Congratulations!

Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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