The teachings of renowned leadership expert and author John Maxwell carry significant meaning at Lakewood Ranch-based insurance giant FCCI.
Maxwell is sometimes quoted in the company’s annual reports. And FCCI President and CEO Craig Johnson has long been a devotee of Maxwell’s brand of always learning, always leading philosophy. Johnson, in a 2011 interview after he was named CEO, referred several times to Maxwell, especially his book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You.” (Johnson’s favorites? Law of the Lid: hire people smarter and better than yourself; Law of Connection: leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand; Law of Empowerment: only secure leaders give power to others.)
That’s why Johnson wasn’t exaggerating, when, during FCCI’s 60th anniversary celebration, held at its Lakewood Ranch headquarters April 3, he called it a dream to have Maxwell, in person, as the keynote speaker. Johnson spoke at the event, as did his predecessor as CEO, G.W. Jacobs and Lisa Krouse, an FCCI executive vice president, chief human resources officer and board member.
Maxwell then had the 400 or so people in the crowd, including FCCI teammates/employees, independent agents, board members and others, alternatively laughing and writing notes of leadership wisdom. Other FCCI employees in the company’s satellite offices watched on video. FCCI, with $837 million in revenue last year and 2.4 billion in total assets, has 840 employees and does work in 19 states, plus Washington, D.C.
Maxwell’s presentation focused mostly on his new book, "Leadershift: The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace. (He spent several minutes on a funny bit about the book’s title. Maxwell loves it but the publishers worry about people mispronouncing it, leaving out the letter F.)
One of the book’s themes is to constantly be aware, as a leader, that you don’t know everything and you need to use that as motivation to never be complacent. “The biggest mess up of all time in management is assumption,” says Maxwell. “It’s an assassinator. It will kill you.”
Other pointers from Maxwell, based on Leadershift, include:
• Continually learn, unlearn and relearn. “You have to be very agile,” Maxwell says.
• Value yesterday but live in today. Maxwell says the pace of life and business requires a keep proving yourself mentality. He has a sign in his office, as a reminder, that says “yesterday ended last night.”
• Realize today’s best will not meet tomorrow’s challenges. Maxwell says this is a call to be flexible and nimble, but also never relent on your core values as a company or leader. “A vision without the behavior to meet the vision,” Maxwell says, “is useless.”