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NOTTINGHAM, England-Listening to others is an important leadership lesson, Lloyd's of London Chairman Sir David Rowland told a group of risk managers recently.
"Most certainly, one of my early conclusions was that borrowing other people's acquired experience must be a better way of equipping oneself less painfully than stumbling untutored along the path of learning only by one's own mistakes," Sir David explained.
Sir David spoke at the Assn. of Risk & Insurance Managers' 1997 annual conference, held last month at the East Midlands Conference Center at the University of Nottingham.
He said that he learned many other leadership lessons in his almost 40 years as a Lloyd's broker before he took the helm of Lloyd's, just as the 308-year-old market was reaching the height of its troubles.
One of the most important lessons was that "a strong team working together in harmony towards a shared goal outperforms the most brilliant group of individuals."
Sir David used this principle in 1990 when putting together a group of market practitioners and consultants that studied Lloyd's position and its future.
In selecting the task force members, he relied on another belief: "I had learned by then that the only sensible way to run anything was always to endeavor to hire people brighter than I was myself, to use their ideas and to acknowledge them with gratitude," he said.
Do not be afraid of hiring and working with people more intelligent than yourself, he said. "Just be grateful that you can be dragged along in the wake of their ability."
Sir David pointed out that insurance companies now attract the "top-class, second-class people," but to go a step higher, salaries must increase to compete with other professions. The top graduates want to feel like they are "part of the best team," he said.
Because of its roots in a collection of family businesses, Lloyd's had attracted the best and worst talent, said Sir David.
The market attracted the best because it was a place that "could get you seriously rich," and the worst because it was a haven for the lazy who could reside in the family business.
Over the recent turbulent times, the worst have been weeded out, and Lloyd's has been nurturing new talent through its graduate training program, he said.
A key task of any leader is "to secure good succession," said Sir David. But most of all, a good leader needs a sense of commitment, passion and purpose, together with good communication skills.