Good leadership involves taking initiative, completing tasks and owning the result, Samford University alumna and American Insurance Association (AIA) executive Leigh Ann Metzger Pusey told a recent student leadership convocation at the school.
Pusey knows her topic, since in her role as president and CEO of AIA she oversees its operations and works with its board of directors to develop and guide the strategic mission of the association.
"Any of us can be leaders. This society is screaming for leadership," she said, urging Samford students, whatever their passion, to get involved. "If you have passion and vision, people will follow."
Leadership begins with recognition of the process, which wasn't always clear to her as a college student, she said, when she wasn't sure what her academic major would be. "But I knew to keep moving forward," said Pusey, who graduated from Samford in 1984 with a degree in public administration.
After graduation, she found herself in Washington, D.C., where opportunities seemingly fell her way. "But they didn't just happen. I worked hard, and when given the chance, took on more responsibility," she said.
Pusey joined AIA, property-casualty insurance trade organization that represents 300 insurers that write more than $117 billion in premiums each year, in 1996 as senior vice president for public affairs. Before being elevated to the top post in 2009, she was chief operating officer and senior vice president of government affairs, representing AIA's interests before congress and state legislatures.
Prior to AIA, her Washington career included work as deputy assistant to President George H. W. Bush for the White House Office of Public Liaison.
Pusey encouraged students to develop their own leadership style, recalling how in one job she had tried to emulate a predecessor who was known for being aloof with employees. "I distanced myself from staff, but that was not my personality. I was a failure," said Pusey, who spoke as this year's Omicron Delta Kappa leadership convocation guest lecturer on April 12. She was inducted as a member of the national leadership honor society during her college days.
A leader knows when to lead and when to let others lead, she said. "Letting others lead develops their skills, and delegating strengthens your own leadership. People who are entrusted with a task will be loyal to you. Giving tasks to others helps to build a strong unit."
When things don't go as planned, she said, learn from failure and how to deal with it. "Look back at the situation and see where it went wrong, so the next time you will know where the weaknesses are."
Attitude and a good work ethic are also important. "Be self assured and confident, but not arrogant," she said, adding that employers and others recognize people who are effective and demonstrate good work ethics.
"God has given us different talents to be different kinds of leaders at different times," she said, encouraging students to take advantage of Samford, with its great faculty and opportunities for leadership, as a place to grow and test themselves.
"Keep trying to move forward, and take opportunities, even if you don't know where they are going to go."