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With risk at hand and potential downfall of the company, Sue Henderson, a newly hired CEO, used his experience and leadership along with strategic planning to get Western National Insurance out of financial trouble. In this case study, Henderson has taken all his stakeholders in considerations, both internal and external. They included board members, employees, independent agents, business partners, customers, business customers, regulators, policyholders, Creameries, homeowners, managers, reinsurance brokers, Ward Group, and A.M. Best.

To save the company, Henderson first visited the office of the rating company A.M. Best and “asked them not to further downgrade Western’s rating” (Pesch et al., 2012, p. 6). With fixed rating, Henderson was able to focus on other important changes without having to worry about the rating being downgraded again. In his first day as CEO, “Henderson met with Western’s top managers to introduce himself and to reassure the managers that no immediate major changes would occur” and “told them it was his intent to work with them to review the operations” (Pesch et al., 2012, p. 6). By assuring board members that Henderson will not be making any immediate changes allowed managers to be part of the change and essentially guard them down. As a new CEO, making sudden changes can be seen as threatening because the CEO now overseeing the company can undo all the work that other managers work hard to established in the past years. Next, Henderson and the top management held an all-employee meeting to announce what will be changed and what will be preserved of the company. “He would seek every opportunity to strengthen the company and secure its future success, to maintain open communication channels, and to be honest and fair” (Pesch et al., 2012, p. 7). Henderson knew the upcoming changes will take time and effort, so it was important to involve all employees on time and have them be part of the change. Finally, “Henderson held individual meetings with department heads, as well as meetings with departments as a whole to discuss processes, procedures, issues, and concerns” (Pesch et al., 2012, p. 7). Having all the department managers on the same page and part of the process is the recipe for the success. Surrounding yourself with a diverse team that elicits different perspectives based on different experiences, values, or education will help to continuously refine own moral code (Pliner, 2020).

Henderson used the same model of the organization change management as described by Tams (2018). First, “successful change initiatives start at the top” by setting “up a top-level team of experts, tasked with developing a focused vision and strategy for change that can be communicated in no more than five minutes and is simple enough for all employees to understand”. Then, “mobilize middle management to drive the change through the organization by cascading the plan down every layer of hierarchy” (Tams, 2018). The last step is to “reinforce the change” (Tams, 2018).

Determining the influence within the team is one of many important aspects of leadership style. A leadership style Henderson used in this case was transformational. Transformational leaders motivate and inspire others to achieve their best (Atan & Mahmood, 2019). In this case. Henderson’s transparency to all team members was vital for the company. Having everyone part of the change was necessary which also had an empowering effect on the employees.


The Western National Insurance case study provided (Pesch, Eide, & Moorthy, 2012) discusses a significant financial and operational turnaround for a major insurance company. Despite the “financial death spiral risk” the company found itself in, a change in leadership, operations, and strategy shifted the company in a positive direction, thus preventing its collapse. This post will elucidate some of the actions taken by new CEO Stu Henderson and how these supported and engaged all stakeholders—those stated or otherwise, his leadership and management style in comparison to so-called “best practices” and theory, and how these led to motivation and operational excellence for Western National Insurance.

The first and most evident stakeholder in the affairs of Western National Insurance would of course be the shareholders themselves. Given that the company has been churning out financial troubles, profitability stands as an issue. Because the company had provided premium rates too low to cover losses and expenses—a benefit to clients, but not so for the company, necessarily—profitability continued to suffer. Henderson and company repositioned itself in the market as a high-service/long-term partner rather than its traditional low-cost provider standing. This facilitated higher premiums and thus higher profits: if revenues begin to outweigh expenses more significantly, profits rise. As the authors state, “An insurance company is deemed financially successful if its losses paid, expenses incurred…are less than $1.00 of each dollar of premium revenue earned” (Pesch, Eide, & Moorthy, 2012, p. 97). The company could certainly have reduced earnings and dividends, but this would of course spurn shareholders, a long-term disaster if investments are pulled and confidence in the company is lost. This shows the company’s engagement with these particular stakeholders. This also engages the second stakeholder: competitors. By being cognizant of and reactive to current market trends—e.g., higher premiums, anyway—Western could reap more revenues.

Third are the employees in the firm. Employees require motivation, communication, and fair treatment to be considered “supported and engaged.” Western National Insurance succeeds here, too. Given their aspirations to be an “employer of choice,” per Henderson, they chose to improve benefits and employee programs to better support them, including but not limited to service awards for long tenures, competitive wages, high quality health care insurance, and more (Pesch, Eide, & Moorthy, 2012). The employees were concerned about company culture shifting to an unrecognizable state; they acknowledge that the company has strong positives that should be retained, including the emphasis on volunteerism, relations with customers, and more. By the company allowing this culture to persist and further providing benefits and even charitable donations to non-profits, the company expresses its goodwill to its employees. By branding itself also as “The Relationship Company,” the company positions itself with a significant competitive advantage while also appeasing employee desire to maintain the relationship aspect of the business. Additionally, the leadership utilizes a non-hierarchical and delegatory model to approach a more democratic style of leadership.

Fourth, independent agents need to be engaged and supported, as well. While not employees of the company, they are on the frontlines selling the products ideally. For this reason, although the company strongly considered—and did in fact implement—direct sales of insurance to consumers, they chose to avoid areas already staked out by independent sellers so as to not disrupt their business. This ensures the independent agents keep successfully selling Western’s products while allowing for the company to expand into the 21st century of direct sales like Progressive and Geico (Pesch, Eide, & Moorthy, 2012).

Clients are the fifth stakeholder considered in the strategic shift. The company positioned itself in much the same way as before as long-term and close relationships between agents and clients. By bundling insurance products, selling more diverse products, and maintaining these relationships more closely, clients could be assured they would be taken care of. In addition, the technological advancements, particularly the agent portal, made the work faster, easier, and more reliable; this pays dividends to clients in saved time and a less hectic process. Customers are engaged and supported in the new strategic framework (Pesch, Eide, & Moorthy, 2012).

To mitigate risk and avoid future financial pitfalls—for instance, if storms really act up this year and total more homes than usual—engaging with reinsurers, the sixth stakeholder, is vital. Western spent $11 million from its earnings expected over the year from the investment portfolio to make this happen. This shows a good faith attempt to ensure risk is minimized. That said, the company also implemented new policies of only writing homeowners policies if bundled with auto insurance and identified areas of higher rates of damage to avoid incurring unnecessary additional costs and risks. This too shows an engagement with shareholders, employees, and essentially everyone in the process (Pesch, Eide, & Moorthy, 2012).

In a word, this strategy was poignant and considered. It clearly engages and supports all stakeholders in a variety of ways to ensure strategic success. By so doing, the CEO Henderson demonstrates his competence as a leader for the company. By describing his vision for the company, but also carefully considering people’s concerns at all levels of the enterprise, Henderson demonstrates his transformational leadership style (Atan & Mahmood, 2019). As the authors further expound, there is in fact a clear correlative relationship between operational effectiveness and success and a transformational leadership style. By “transforming” the operations of the company, Henderson has facilitated employee competency and consequently organizational performance. Due to Henderson’s concern for all stakeholders, it would behoove us to describe him further a “servant” leader (Deshwal & Ali, 2020), or, as Sheppard, Zarubina, & Jenkins (2020) describe it, “positive” or “strategic leadership.”


Every organization may face a financial problem for a period of time. In this situation, it needs a strong and committed leader to save a company from financial loss and reverse the situation. The Leadership and the Psychology of Turnarounds article state that leaders have intelligent financial and strategic decision-making tasks, as well as a related line of effort that seems largely unnoticed and unexplored by observers, but vital to improving the company’s wealth and difficult to achieve. (Kanter, 2014) In addition, the study in the Leadership and the Psychology of Turnarounds article states that restoring the trust of employees, investors or the public is a necessary precursor, inspiring and empowering their organizations to take new actions that can renew profitability. As a result, it was emphasized that a manager should lead a psychological return. (Kanter, 2014) It is possible to say that Henderson leads the psychological recycling of the company.

Serving as CEO at Western National Insurance Company, Stuart Henderson succeeded in turning the organization into a successful organization by supporting and engaging stakeholders. The Western National Insurance case study includes a long list of stakeholders. These include the sales team, representatives, product development team, senior management, customer service team, policyholders and operations team, customers, regulators, agents, A.M. Best, and reinsurance brokers. As CEO, on the first business day, Henderson met with Western’s previous CEO and board of directors to introduce himself and stated that no major change could be made to executives immediately. McKinsey has estimated that 70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely because of employee resistance, and concludes that if the vast resistance of employees continually upset change programs, then perhaps it is not the people who need to be corrected, it is a model of change. (Tams, 2018)

Henderson has said that he intends to work with the previous CEO and chairmen of the board to review the company’s operations and plans for 60 days to determine how the company can best move forward. (Pesch et al., 2012) Henderson has demonstrated a leadership style that shows that he is collaborative and open to ideas, seeking the help of all (previous) managers in gathering all the information and deciding the best way forward. To strengthen the company and ensure its future success, maintaining open channels of communication, seeking every opportunity, to be honest, and fair, Henderson has held meetings with departments as a whole to discuss processes, procedures, issues, and concerns, as well as individual meetings with heads of departments. (Pesch et al., 2012)

Henderson frequently asked employees to criticize their field and list their strengths and weaknesses, “What are your main concerns about your area?” he asked. (Pesch et al., 2012) With this strategy, Henderson aimed to reduce the anxiety of the employees by communicating with the employees and develop strategies to increase the morale of the employees. Henderson has turned to the field of training agencies in this field, using ways to motivate agencies to carry out advertising activities designed to raise awareness about new products. In the article, it was stated that the company did not have the computer capability to analyze and that the invoicing procedures were paper-based. (Pesch et al., 2012) Uncompromising on quality in the field of technology, Henderson has made more investments in new product development to ensure quality and has demonstrated an innovative leadership characteristic. In addition, the investment made in technology and the use of advanced technology have contributed to the increase of the quality of the products and the increase of the safety of the employees.

This path followed in the strategic field shows that Henderson is an experienced manager. Sensitive to the direction of market demand, Henderson believes that the productivity and success of the firm can increase with the feedback from the stakeholders while being motivated by the service it provides to the customers. In conclusion, it can be said that he is a servant leader with emotional intelligence, motivation, and social skills. A Servant Leader pays more attention to the needs of employees, helping them grow and develop. (Deshwal et al., 2020) By using servant leadership, organizational goals can be achieved without using positional and authoritative power. (Kumar, 2018).

Successful leaders play an important role in creating a sense of ownership by involving stakeholders in the decision-making process. The clear understanding of successful leaders about involving stakeholders in a decision is effective in increasing stakeholder confidence in the company. Leaders who try to motivate and inspire to work collaboratively in achieving the common goal can be qualified as successful leaders. They are successful leaders who take an active role in facilitating things and increasing organizational capacity with their open-mindedness in the suggestions from stakeholders in motivating stakeholders to excellence.

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