What makes a good leader?

I recently welcomed a group of new staff to AA Insurance and enjoyed talking to them about what makes us tick as an organisation.

When I got back to my desk, I reflected on what one of our executive team, Simon Hobbs, had said at a recent company meeting. And that was, at AA Insurance we truly value all our people and, in terms of our company vision, being ‘a company people want to work for’ comes first. People are our competitive advantage and we intend to invest in them to reach our goals.

Investing in our people includes providing effective leadership aligned with our vision, values, purpose and strategy. I’ve seen many organisations with the fundamentals of vision and purpose in place, yet they still underperform and even fail.

I believe these organisations lack deep understanding of what they are trying to achieve and how they are going to get there. This is a key leadership role in any organisation. Strong and consistent leadership around these things create an aligned surge of activity in a common direction, and allows people from throughout the business to better understand what an organisation is trying to do. This creates buy-in and enthusiasm for what’s important.

In my mind, great leadership is about creating an environment and a relationship that will help every team member achieve their potential. Every day I see our best leaders across the business display very similar characteristics, which fall into four key areas: effective communication skills, the ability to instil pride, the ability to stretch people, and humility.

Effective leaders communicate what’s important - often and consistently. This includes the existence and importance of our alignment model, what we aspire to as an organisation (our vision), what we are trying to achieve for our customers (purpose), and how each of us can help through our behaviours (values).

I believe that our people will be engaged when they have a strong belief in what we are trying to do. Our best leaders instil a sense of pride in our people about AA Insurance, and the wider insurance industry, and how we support our economy, our communities and our customers.

I often hear our best leaders having conversations about how we’ve helped customers through the trauma of an earthquake, fire, burglary, or car accident. They create pride in what we do through their conversations with people.

Great leaders stretch people, give them challenges and opportunities. Our most selfless leaders create an expectation that people will be moved through the business, when they are ready and if they want to. They prepare them and then deliver. Great leaders encourage people to try new things, and to be responsible and accountable for what goes right and to learn from the things that don’t.

Our very best leaders are genuinely humble. They demonstrate a preparedness to absorb pain, deflect praise and are selflessly motivated. They communicate a goal or vision and rally people around its achievement. They exhibit self-awareness, knowing how they affect others, and are prepared and able to adjust.

Our best leaders never shirk the responsibility of having an honest conversation about difficult issues and they will proactively seek out and understand why we do things a certain way to ensure continuity of success.

I think there is another important element of our leadership that sets AA Insurance apart. We encourage a sense of strong competition in line with our goals. This creates excitement and enthusiasm because everyone’s day-to-day activities are then clearly aligned to the organisation’s goals.

We truly believe that our people and culture underpin our competitive advantage. That’s why we have made a commitment to continue to invest in these areas and that’s why strong, brave, consistent and positive leadership is so vitally important.

Chris Curtin

Chief Executive, AA Insurance

About AA Insurance

AA Insurance is an independently operated, New Zealand-based joint venture between the New Zealand Automobile Association (NZAA) and Vero Insurance New Zealand Limited (VINZL). Since 1994 we have demonstrated trusted expertise in home, contents and car insurance in New Zealand, and in 2018 introduced commercial small business insurance. We underwrite our own policies and sell direct to New Zealanders. Our 930+ staff look after over 480,000 customers with 970,000 policies.

We proudly partner with Variety NZ and Eden Park and have been consistently recognised by: Reader’s Digest Most Trusted Brands (since 2011) and Quality Service Awards for Car, and Home and Contents Insurance (since 2015), Kantar Customer Leadership Index (since 2019), Canstar Blue Most Satisfied Customers (2011-2018), and the Colmar Brunton Corporate Reputation Index (since 2015) that recognises New Zealand’s most successful companies. AA Insurance was also named Consumer NZ People’s Choice award winner for car, home and contents (2019 and 2020).

AA Insurance has an AA- (Very Strong) Insurer Financial Strength Rating given by Standard and Poor’s (Australia) Pty Ltd. For further information visit aainsurance.co.nz.

For more information please contact:

Media Team, AA Insurance, 027 406 1787, mediacontact@aainsurance.co.nz