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Three Types of Leaders

Season 1 Episode 2

Three Types of Leaders with David White

Season 1 Episode 2


Intro/Outro Speaker: Welcome to the Insurance Leadership Podcast, the podcast designed to bring new perspectives and principles from leaders in the life and health insurance industry. We trust you will enjoy today's episode.

[00:00:25] Ryan: Welcome to the Insurance Leadership Podcast. I'm Ryan Eaton, your host for today, and excited about the interview that we have in store for you. Today, we have David White as our guest, and I gotta admit I'm just fired up to have him here today. Welcome, David.

[00:00:37] David: Thank you. Glad to be here

[00:00:39] Ryan: Before we get started, I want to give you a little background about David. David kind of got started in the insurance industry about 30 years ago. He started an insurance agency called Morgan White Agency back in 1987. From there, he grew that to one of the largest employee benefit agencies in the state of Mississippi.

[00:00:58] Also founding a TPA and then also developing an insurance company at the same time. He sold it, though, in early 2000, later bought it back about... what a year? Maybe, 2001? And today has a brokerage company, a payroll company several domestic insurance companies, several international insurance companies, a TPA that's doing business for probably roughly about 50 different insurance companies across the country.

[00:01:25] Needless to say, David has some amazing experience in the insurance industry and we're honored to have him here today. So thank you for being here, David

[00:01:33] David: Thank you.

[00:01:34] Ryan: Well, how was 2020? How did how did Morgan White do as a company?

[00:01:37] David: Well, amazingly, Morgan White had a record year for sales, record year for profits growth all around.

[00:01:45]We didn't know at the beginning of the year, what was going to happen, just like everybody else, because a lot of our businesses bank drafted for dental and vision and that type of thing. So we were really concerned on where people are going to keep their policies and as it turned out, people love their insurance policies and almost none of them dropped it.

[00:02:03] In fact, we increased over the year at a record pace. So it turned out great for us all the way around.

[00:02:09] Ryan: Man, that's awesome, David. Yeah, it seems like people don't want to cancer their health insurance premiums. During a health pandemic, I guess I think that's a pretty smart thing to do. That's great.

[00:02:18] Well, look, David, we were talking the other day and as you know, this podcast is built on leadership and the insurance industry. And you said something to me the other day, about the three types of leaders you see in an organization that I've never heard anyone put it like that before. Would you mind kind of starting us off today kind of hitting on that piece?

[00:02:36] David: Well, this is not something new. I've heard other people talk about parts of it and in my way of thinking, there are three major categories of leaders and leaders in organizations, and they're not mutually exclusive. A leader may be parts of all of them, but in my way of thinking there are starters and some people would say what's a starter? Well, a starter is an entrepreneur who starts a business from scratch, has an idea.

[00:03:02] Some people may call them visionaries if they, if you're a successful entrepreneur, you're a visionary.

[00:03:06] Ryan: Yeah.

[00:03:06] David: If you fail you're--I don't know what that is, but you're not a visionary, but these are people that have ideas that they think that the general public would like, and they can make money from that. Then there's the second category is what I call a fixer.

[00:03:20] And that's when a corporation has problems and someone who is a great leader that comes in that knows how to analyze what the issues are and come up with solutions that can fix those. And the one that comes to mind quickest is Lee Iacocca, who a lot of people know. They know that he took over Chrysler when it was really in bad shape and even went to the federal government and got them to lend him some money and paid it back.

[00:03:46] And so Chrysler is still around today. And a lot of people think it's because of Lee Iacocca, what a lot of people don't know is what he did for the Ford motor company before Chrysler. He was the guy that came up with a Mustang and that was the first car I ever owned. And that was-- he came up with it in 1965.

[00:04:04] And it was sort of the poor man sports car, you know? And so, Lee Iacocca brought that to Ford and that really pulled forward out of the fiery place that they were in at their point in time. And then the last, and which I think is who most leaders really are and the ones that in my estimation are the most necessary are the maintainers.

[00:04:25] And those are the leaders who have a plan and that plan could have come from the visionary or the, or the starter or the fixer, but they see that plan and they know how to organize people and they know how to communicate to the people, the plan that we're going to execute. And then they are great at executing that plan.

[00:04:43] So you've got starters, you've got fixers and you've got maintainers.

[00:04:46] Ryan: Well, David as a starter or as a visionary, right, if you're successful, what has helped you see opportunities in the market when you, what helps you pick where to go for what to strive after? What, what opportunities that pop up? Because we all see opportunities.

[00:05:00] We all see different things that come to us as a starter, though. What has been things that have helped you kind of push forward and lead to success?

[00:05:08] David: Well, I think, and you and I have discussed this before, but I think you have to be a real student of your industry, and you have to read periodicals, you have to keep up with newsletters.

[00:05:19] You have to really read about and gain knowledge about your industry. And through doing that, you can find maybe holes that are not being taken care of. We're in insurance, so we may find a hole that a policy could fill or we may see something that someone else has come up with and say, "Gee, if we only did this or that, we could make that a little better."

[00:05:46] And then the second thing that you and I have discussed before is listening to other people. I have never really found a situation where I met somebody new. That I didn't come away with knowledge about what we do, or maybe ideas about what we could do different listening to what they do, or I can think of a couple of examples that you and I've talked about, where you met a guy when you were doing the senior division, and he had an idea to have an online place where people could keep their list of prescription drugs.

[00:06:19] I remember you coming back and talking about that. And from that, you and I came up with an idea of insurance lockbox, which we've had for several years now, which has turned out to be very successful, which is online where you keep all of your information, right.

[00:06:31] Not just prescription drugs. So he had a great idea. And then you and I listened to his idea. And then we came up with a better idea that was able to expand on it. And so the premium saver, our particular product, our gap plan that has produced more profits and volume than anything that our business has ever done on the risk-taking side,

[00:06:51] was actually an idea from an agent that came in and talked to me and this is, gosh, we've been doing it since 2002, so we're talking about 18 years ago. And his idea was to take a product that another company had already had and then say, "What if we could make this an employer paid product?" And then from that, we took that product and we actually did more with it and included more things in it.

[00:07:18] And over the years, what you do is you tweak them. You say, well, "Gee, we ought to be giving, giving more of this benefit or that benefit to make it more popular." And as you are aware, we are not the least expensive in the market today, but we're called the Cadillac.

[00:07:34] Ryan: That's right.

[00:07:35] David: I liked that, that adjective.

[00:07:38] So I think people see us as the best product in the market. Maybe not the cheapest product in the market, but the one that provides the most coverage for the price. And so, all of those things came from listening to people. And I think if you ever get to the point where you think listening to someone, or you may be so prideful, you think, well, this guy's not on the same level I am or this lady's not at the same knowledge level I am. You're making a big mistake because listening always provides new ideas and people who are visionaries who have the ability to think like a visionary can listen to what other people say, and then maybe turn it into something better.

[00:08:18] Ryan: Oh, I love that. You know, Zig Ziglar said, you hit along something that he said for years, is that every group great idea is usually a 10% variance of another good idea.

[00:08:29] David: I think that's very true.

[00:08:30] Ryan: And what you're talking about there? The power of listening, I think that flows so good together. Let me ask you this: so for a lot of us, we're receiving, you know, 20 to 30 calls from different people a day, and everyone wants to talk. Everyone's got a new idea they want to pitch to you everyone's got a thought process.

[00:08:45] Everyone's fighting for your calendar time, right? How do you distinguish maybe which calls you should take, which ones you shouldn't, when to maybe spend more time listening versus when to kind of say, okay, I'm done with this. How do you look at that from your perspective?

[00:09:00] David: Well, I think you need to stay in your lane.

[00:09:02]I think a lot of people want to listen to every idea about everything and there's nothing wrong with hearing what other people have to say about things that really aren't related to your particular business. But I listened to, for example, I do a lot of investing for our insurance companies along with Allen.

[00:09:17] And if people want to talk about investing, then I'm all ears. I'm hearing what they have to say. I want to hear what they think, even if I disagree with them, because I think sometimes things come out of it. But if you want to talk to me about automobiles or you wanna talk to me about drones, or you want to talk to me about something that is not related to our business, then you're going to get a very limited amount of time because that's just keeping me from doing something related to the lane that I see us in. And insurance, especially benefits are what we have built our business on and I think there are improvements that we can make in how we do administration, I think there are improvements that we can make in the products that we deliver, and listening and hearing what other people are doing really helps me a lot in that area.

[00:10:05] But I think because we have limited time, we have to determine what we're willing to listen to, not the person, but the subject.

[00:10:13] Ryan: That's right.

[00:10:13] David: And I just tell him thank you very much, I appreciate your time, but that's really not where we're going and that's how I cut them off. I don't really, you know, say, I don't want to hear what you got to say.

[00:10:24] Ryan: So your biggest thing there is trying to look at: okay, does this align with my core competencies as a company? And is it worth my kind of time, return on investment, so to say with that.

[00:10:33] David: I'll give you an example is when we got in the payroll business, Joel Jasper, who is one of our vice presidents, said, you know, this is something we've been trying to do as an agency through other people.

[00:10:43] And really the service just in general is terrible. And nobody is really gearing it where. Insurance agents could really sell this product. It's not set up commission-wise and it's really not set up where it's something that they could utilize. And so we talked about that, that's not really in the lane that we do, which is in benefits, but it relates to the people that use our products.

[00:11:08] And so we started that off about a year and a half ago, and it has been tremendously successful. And we find out that not only is it in our lane, it's the thing where the line starts because everything starts with the payroll system, because that's where you take insurance out of, out of the employer's check or the employee's check if it's voluntary product.

[00:11:27] No, that's

[00:11:27] Ryan: great. Well, let me just kind of switch lines just a tad bit. So you talked about earlier, the starters, the fixers, and the maintainers, and you obviously being a starter-- ideas every minute of every day, you got different things that are popping in-- what would you say when you're.. Or what do you do when you're trying to look for good fixers and maintainers within your company, or you're trying to find the right people to do other things, because obviously if you're coming up with ideas and you're making big things happen from the visionary side, you have to be able to have people there that can see these through.

[00:12:00] What are your biggest things you're looking for when you're trying to find those people for your team?

[00:12:04] David: You know, I would like to tell you that I had some great way to do that, but I think in my case, it's really been God just shining on me because the people that have come and worked for us or work under us, especially the leadership have sort of been in those positions, not because I was out looking for them, they were just there. And I think that it sort of becomes the culture of the business like you were talking about. They know I'm the person who's going to come up with ideas and that doesn't mean other people can't come up with ideas because as we know in the administrative side, people come up with great ideas, how to make us more efficient all the time.

[00:12:41] I'm just not as knowledgeable about that side of it. So the leader at the top can be something, but you got to have this leadership all the way down through your organization. You know, we did a reorganization about two years ago to more flatten what we called our leadership by bringing others up to a higher level.

[00:13:00] And it has proven to be very successful. And so you've got to cultivate visionaries at every level. You got to cultivate the fixers. You know, we sort of go to the guy that fixed it last time, especially if he did a good job. Well, we'd maybe not have recognized that he was a fixer, but he proved to us that he was a fixer.

[00:13:18] Ryan: Correct.

[00:13:18] David: So we want to elevate that fixer in the organization. Same about maintainers. This guy's got a very efficient operation and within our organization, we don't ever have any problems with him. Everything's running smoothly. Hey, that's a leader. That's a maintainer. So, how to go out and look for them, I would say that same thing. You see that they've done that with another organization and maybe that's what they're known for in that organization. And as you interview them, you can ask those questions.

[00:13:46] Ryan: That's good. What would you say, I hear from different people all the time. Oh, I'd love to hire so-and-so but they cost too much or I can't pay them what they need to be able to come on board.

[00:13:54] What would you say to the people who have that comment or maybe have the comment that there's just not any good people out there for hire right now. What would you say from that perspective?

[00:14:03] David: I learned that lesson about 25 years ago. I never had a very good assistant or somebody that could help me do what I needed to do.

[00:14:13] And this lady came along and she was very, very good and very, very sharp. And so I started talking to her and the number that she told me, she wanted sort of rocked my chair back. I said, Oh my gosh, I can't pay that much. And so I was just real honest with her. I said, I don't think I can pay you that much.

[00:14:32] And she said, Well, if you want somebody as good as me, then you're going to have to pay that much because that's what I cost. And so I bit the bullet and I paid her what she was asking is the greatest thing I ever did because because good people will always provide more to your organization, then you pay them and people who are confident in what they do,

[00:14:54] and they've got a track record about what they do... I think people who try to squeeze to say, "Gee, I don't want to pay them any more than that," you're making a big mistake. At least that's proven true in our organization. And I can't think of a time when any of us have said... well, I can think of a couple of times when somebody said we couldn't pay them because they were making more than we were making,

[00:15:15] so I know we couldn't pay them, but people that are really you want to bring into your organization that you think can help your organization... you know, you just have to look at it and say, what did they have to do to achieve this number and us to be able to afford them. And most of the time, it's not even close. Good people can always do that.

[00:15:36] Ryan: When you're looking for the right people, and this is a question we hear a lot, but when you're looking for the right people, what are you looking for? What characteristics may be from a salesperson perspective or from an administrative standpoint and a filing person, each one's different, right?

[00:15:50] Depending on what you're looking for, what are some of the characteristics you look that, and then if you had to give me a global picture across all lines, what would you say would be the characteristics that you're looking for?

[00:16:00] David: Well, obviously if you're talking about administration, you want people that are detailed minded and, and really liked that sort of thing.

[00:16:07] But globally, before you get to know them before you've dug in a little bit, the number one thing I look for is their personality. You know, can they talk to me? Do I like them? Are they confident right within what they're doing? And then once I get past that, I started looking for character and character is so important in our organization.

[00:16:28] And, you know, we believe that... And we've told all our people, you always tell the truth to the client. And even if it's a mistake, we'll back you up, but you always tell the truth. And so it's very, very important. That's part of our culture and anybody that doesn't have that built into them, they won't last long here because we can't operate any other way.

[00:16:49] And I think it's true with every organization. You have certain things about your culture. That maybe you can bend a little bit, but there are core principles that you can't bend on. And those things, those people have to adhere to those particular core principles.

[00:17:03] And I will tell you that I had a guy asked me one time. He said, "How in the world do you have such wonderful people working for you? And what is it that you think has caused that?" And I said, "Well God has caused it. That's for sure. But what I think happens in Morgan White is each of our managers treat their business, whatever part of our business is their business, like it was their business. And we try to give them the ability to run it like there was that business and then we try to compensate them like that was their business. So if their part of the business does well, we want to compensate them with part of the profits.

[00:17:39] And that has worked so well for us to let everybody know you do a great job, you're going to get compensated for it.

[00:17:46] Ryan: So you said something there that I liked from, not micromanaging, letting the managers run their department and not kind of just hovering over their shoulder. What have you found for that?

[00:17:55] David: That's the hardest thing that I ever had to deal with. People that are type A personalities and you're one, too, you know what I'm talking about, we believe we can do it better than anybody else. Now, the problem comes in is when you have so much business, you can't do it all. So now you've got to let somebody else do it.

[00:18:13] And what was hardest for me, and I failed at it many times before I got it down pat, is to say, you know what? They may not do it exactly like I would have done it, but if they get to the same conclusion I'm looking for, let it go, let them do it like they want to do it. And sometimes that's a very hard thing to do, especially when you have started the business from scratch and you obviously, are the entrepreneur and you know what you think and you know what it is.

[00:18:40] And now you're bringing other people in who have not been there from the beginning, and so you've got to let them do what they do best. And sometimes they, you will find out sometimes they do it better than you would do it because they come at it from a different angle.

[00:18:54] Ryan: No, that's right. They, you know, John Maxwell, I think is the one who says that if someone can do something to 80% of the degree or capacity that you can do it, delegate it to them, let them handle that.

[00:19:04] So that kind of goes into a little bit of delegation. I know we're kind of hitting some different subjects here, but what would you say is the biggest thing you've learned from a delegation standpoint? Cause I know you've had experience with this.

[00:19:16] David: Well, you've just got to know what to delegate.

[00:19:18] Ryan: Right.

[00:19:19] David: And you've got to say, okay, this is what I do best.

[00:19:23] And so I need to delegate the things that I don't do as well. Your father, for example, is so great in our organization to, even though he's a CPA, he's a CPA with sales ability too. He's got a marketing touch to it. So, I can talk to him about the marketing side of it. And he turns around and turns it around to the accounting side of it.

[00:19:48] And he makes it work. And he and I can talk about directions of the business, but you have to have people. I mean, he does things that I don't want to do, and even though I could learn how to do them, I can never be as good at him as he is. And so you just have to look at it that way and those things that I really love to do those are the things that I don't offload.

[00:20:11] Ryan: Aw, love that. Well, look, David, kinda in wrapping up the podcast, let me ask you one last question and that is what leadership principle or practice did you learn that has been the most value to you in your career?

[00:20:24] David: Oh, wow, that's a tough one. Taking a risk is probably the most important to me. And I have never had a problem with taking a risk because that is the thing that separates entrepreneurs from people who work for entrepreneurs is who took the risk. The guy who takes the risk also has the greatest reward. Now, the other thing that happens is you're gonna make mistakes.

[00:20:50] And I think probably the most valuable lesson I have learned is when you're wrong to cut it short and quit trying to make it work. A lot of people will try to make it work and work and work, and it doesn't work, and a couple of people have told me that that's probably one of my better talents is I know that if it's not working, I have the know-how to say this isn't working, let's cut it off and go down the road somewhere else.

[00:21:16] Ryan: And that's so true about you, David. You've done that and that's not something you've just started. You've done that for years. If something's not working, cut the string, move forward and move on and don't look back

[00:21:25] David: It wasn't always that way though, you know, you learn that some things are not God given talent. Some things are just from being in the ditch before and saying, I don't want to go in this ditch again.

[00:21:36] Ryan: No, that's great.

[00:21:37] David: And the least ditches you can be in the better off your elbow is. That's another thing that I think would be a good leadership principles, stay out of the ditches out of the ditches.

[00:21:46] Ryan: I'll never forget when I was about to get married. One of the things you told me was you said, "Ryan, you get to know which ditches you want to get in which ones are worth getting in and which ones you don't ever want to get in."

[00:21:57] David: I think what I told you is you'd better pick your fights well.

[00:22:00] Ryan: Pick your, pick your ditches.

[00:22:03] David: Especially with your wife, some things are just not worth fighting over.

[00:22:06] Ryan: Not worth getting in.

[00:22:07] David: That's right.

[00:22:08] Ryan: Well, David, thank you so much for being with us today. I know from myself and the audience and everyone who's listening today, they appreciate you being here. If you want to learn more about David White, you can go to

[00:22:19] You can find out a little bit more about him on the "about us" section. You can also look him up on LinkedIn, he's there. Thank you for listening to the insurance leadership podcast. We're a little hinges swing big doors, and a good plan today is better than a great plan several months from now. Please subscribe on your favorite podcast app stream on our website at

[00:22:41] And we thank you for listening to us.

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