This month NAIFA has turned a new page in its 117-year history. The hiring of John Healy as its new CEO marks a departure from customs of the past. Healy is a professional association manager and unlike previous CEOs does not come to NAIFA with previous experience in the field of insurance. NAIFA/NALU has over the years employed many talented professional association people in key roles and they have contributed greatly to the success of the association–but this is the first for its top staff position.
The MDRT has been well served by competent and dedicated professional association managers like Rod Geer and John Prast in their top staff positions. My hope is that NAIFA will also be the beneficiary of that kind of leadership at this critical time. Everything that I have heard about John Healy indicates that the prospect for this happening is bright.
The people who have previously been in charge of the NAIFA/NALU headquarters staff and its mission have come from very diverse backgrounds. There have been lawyers, a college professor, agents, general agents and company executives who have provided top leadership to this vital organization. They have borne a variety of titles including: Managing Director, Executive Vice President, Executive Director, and for the past 20 years Chief Executive Officer. Regardless of their title they have each, in one way or another, left their mark on the organization’s history. Several have served as long as 15 years, a few five to 10 years; and there are a number who were there only briefly.
Some of these past leaders, like Woody Woodson, Ed Zalinsky and James Rutherford, have left this post at NALU and have had distinguished careers as the top executives of some of our largest life insurance companies.
Along the way there have been many critical periods and significant challenges to this organization and the industry it serves. Most of these leaders have risen to the particular challenge of the time and the organization has endured. Needless to say leadership styles have been just as diverse as the people–but always directed in the best interest of the people who buy and sell life insurance.
I thought about this parade of leaders recently as I was reading an article in the May 7, 2007 issue of the Forbes magazine. The article by Paul Johnson, an eminent British historian, was entitled, “Needed, Leaders of Courage.” He started the article by saying, “When he was at Oxford studying history 60 years ago, the fashionable approach was to discount individuals and stress the importance of forces and classes. Everything I have learned since–reporting in the real world–and what a violent, complex and dangerous world it has been–has proved how important outstanding individuals are, for good or evil.”