8 characteristics of a good insurance executive


November 10, 2015

The Property Casualty 360 article, "8 characteristics of a good insurance executive," was written by Russell Reynolds Associates' Limore Zilberman, who shares insights into our study about the psychological profile of an insurance executive. The following is an excerpt from the article. 

Within the insurance industry, we take certain attributes for granted: diligence, detail orientation, a fundamental understanding of data.  

However, it’s rare to take a step back and examine the actual psychological characteristics of insurance executives — how they think, how they make decisions, how they approach interactions with others. 

What is the psychological profile of an insurance executive — and how does this profile differ from the attributes of executives in other fields?

A recent study by Russell Reynolds Associates sought to answers these questions by analyzing the leadership and behavioral attributes of 87 insurance executives, and comparing those executives to the more than 5,000 executives across all industries in Russell Reynolds's database.  

Three psychometric tests were used:  

  • 16pf, which measures communication and teamwork styles. 

  • OPQ-32, which examines personality related to management and leadership roles. 

  • Hogan Development Survey, which identifies patterns of behavior that tend to appear when a person is stressed or under pressure. 

The overall findings were striking. Insurance executives, defying stodgy industry stereotypes, score high on some quite vibrant personality traits.  

The 'secret sauce'

Understanding this profile (as well as how these traits can be developed) can be of tremendous value to anyone in the insurance field. 

The personality traits of insurance executives — the “secret sauce” of this group of executives — fall into three camps: possessing a concerned eye, being a steady pair of hands, and embodying dynamism. 

Here is our profile of what makes a good insurance executive: 

1. They possess a concerned eye

Insurance executives are more likely to worry before significant occasions than the average executive. This is a double-edged sword — this characteristic raises the right concerns, but can create mental drag due to the resulting anxiety. 

2. They are a “steady pair of hands” 

Insurance executives score higher than the overall executive population on a cluster of traits that relate to procedural and interpersonal steadiness. 

3. They are more trusting and more likely to perceive others as reliable

In our research, again and again, top executive groups score higher than the overall population for being trusting — the ability to trust others facilitates a whole host of productive, collaborative interactions.

To develop this trait, consciously reflect back on situations where you feel you withheld your trust from a business partner or group of business partners, and where that lack of trust was not ultimately validated.

What in your mind were the reasons for not trusting? How can you “rewrite the story” for future interactions toward putting your faith in others where appropriate? 

To read the full article, click here.

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8 characteristics of a good insurance executive