Friday, August 22, 2008

Lessons in Leadership with R Danny Williams

Published: Friday August 22, 2008

R Danny Williams is the father of the Jamaican insurance industry and the founder of the foremost life insurance company in Jamaica, Life of Jamaica (LOJ) now Sagicor Life Jamaica. He formed LOJ at a time when the insurance industry in Jamaica was dominated by foreign interests, more particularly,Canadians. This move in 1970 served notice that he was a man of vision, drive and purpose. He was prepared to take on the big boys and lead from the front.

R Danny Williams is a gentleman of the old school, one that says what he means and means what he says.

He began LOJ by raising the capital without calling on its underwriting, deciding to do it in two tranches: (1) 1,740,000 shares through a private placement; (2) a public placement of 760, 000 shares. On the first day of business the agents took to the streets and sold more insurance than the company had ever sold in a month! Life of Jamaica was the first life insurance company listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange.

R Danny Williams' leadership qualities are well known and it was perhaps this asset that Prime Minister Michael Manley decided to second from the private sector back in 1977, when he invited the insurance man to join his administration. He was first appointed Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry & Commerce before being promoted to full Cabinet rank.

R Danny Williams' leadership qualities are well sought and he has sat on a number of private sector boards. His character sets him apart as a man in full.

"Contrary to the often expressed view I do not think that good leaders are born. Undoubtedly some people are born with the qualities that help to make them good leaders but these qualities have to be developed and honed over time.
The points that came to mine as I started thinking about the matter are as follows. They are not listed in any order. A good leader must:

1) Be a hard worker and lead by example

2) Plan his work and so ensure maximum use of his time.

3) Have confidence in himself without being arrogant. Be prepared to admit when he is wrong and to change when necessary. Put mistakes behind him and start again.

4) Have a positive attitude to life.

5) Have a clear vision of what he wants to achieve and commit it to paper. He must possess imagination and be able to dream of possibilities.

6) Listen to what others have to say and learn from them.

7) Treat everyone the way you would like to be treated if the position were reversed.

8) Let your word be your bond. All those you deal with must be able to respect you for your integrity and forthrightness.

9) Motivate those you would wish to lead and ensure that they share your vision and if necessary you must sell it to them.

10) Be a person of action. Procrastination must not be a part of your way of life. A leader must be willing to make decisions and to take risks where appropriate.

11) Develop through training etc all who work with you and compensate them fairly and generously.

12) Give credit to your associates and not steal their ideas. Be generous in your praise and encourage their creativity. No one of us is the fountain of all knowledge.

13) Delegate as much as possible but realise that you still have the responsibility, consequently you must master the art of follow-up.

14) Genuinely respect and care for those you would wish to lead. Insincerity is easily detected.

15) Make time for those close to you. Success without being able to share it with those you love and who love you is empty.

16) Be a good communicator at all levels in as simple and straight forward a manner as is possible.

17) Take time off to refresh yourself. It is the fountain of creativity.

18) Have a sense of humour. Never take yourself too seriously."

Source: Jamaica Observer

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