Leadership during a crisis

Jacqueline
Coke Lloyd

Friday, October 02, 2020 1 comment

R Danny Williams

As Jamaica and the rest of the world currently grapple with the fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic, strong leadership is required consistently from all critical stakeholders in Government, the private sector, and particularly among health and medical personnel. Leadership during a crisis poses an exceptional challenge and requires even more effort than the norm. While this latest episode is health-related, more than two decades prior, Jamaica had to deal with a severe financial meltdown during which very few entities were spared. One such was insurance giant, Life of Jamaica, today known as Sagicor, with R Danny Williams as founder and director emeritus.

R Danny Williams is a pioneer in his field, as he identified a need for the provision of life insurance locally since it was a business entirely dominated by foreign interests prior to his intervention. He is self-taught in his profession, having worked his way right to the top out of high school, and becoming a manager at the age of only 26, despite never attending university due to financial constraints.

Williams was a major player responsible for transforming not only the life insurance industry but the wider banking and financial services sector in Jamaica by encouraging more Jamaican-owned businesses to enter the playing field. His proven managerial capacity is exemplified in times of crisis as, during the 1990s, when other businesses in Jamaica were folding due to mismanagement and excessive risk-taking, he navigated difficult periods with a steady hand. He notes that the company strived to adopt all modern methods to weather the storm and that they were never careless after nearly becoming bankrupt.

In a sit-down interview done for a doctor of transformational leadership, Williams revealed that his approach to transformational leadership involves convincing others of the value of what you’re doing, especially in overcoming obstacles. Regarding the financial sector crisis of the 90s, Williams noted that his company remained steady because it got capital; Government saw the value of the organisation and was willing to extend its financial resources to help, which it eventually did.

Truly, Williams encapsulates the essence of entrepreneurship in his leadership style, and what is particularly striking about his approach to leadership is that even though he occupies an industry in which risk-taking is encouraged in order to generate substantial returns, he demonstrates a high level of prudence and responsibility, especially with other people’s resources. In this instance, he can be said to be an excellent steward.

As an example of this, Williams noted an instance in which he had to pull together his staff to reduce sales of insurance as they were in excess, which could lead to a possible collapse of the business. In doing so, he was able to convince the staff of the utility of this exercise, even though it involved a salary cut and no hiring of new employees. His course of action saved the business in the end.

Williams’ ability to demonstrate a high degree of level-headedness when maneuvering rough periods, which is essentially the hallmark of an exceptional leader, has made his company the premier institution and point of reference for the life insurance industry in Jamaica, as well as throughout the region and, if his vision for the organisation should come to fruition, the world.

Taking this seriously, we should strive to maximise the value we create and also build an atmosphere in which our team members feel unencumbered in expressing their views for the betterment of the business. Ultimately, these are the approaches used by Williams during times of challenge, which engendered a greater sense of unity and trust and allowed them to tackle any challenge head-on.

Jacqueline Coke Lloyd is founder and managing director of Make Your Mark Consultants. She is a transformational leader, coach, organisation and people development specialist, and national productivity ambassador. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or jackiecokelloyd@gmail.com.

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