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7 Questions with Fred Sievert
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Fred Sievert
Name: Fred Sievert
Current title: Retired president of New York Life Insurance Company
Current organisation: Christian Author
FORTUNE 100 COMPANY PRESIDENT AND AUTHOR Fred Sievert
Fred Sievert started his career as a teacher, later entered the insurance business and retired in 2007 as President of New York Life Insurance Company, a Fortune 100 corporation.
During his reign as president, New York Life first achieved a number one market share ranking in the sale of Life Insurance in the United States and repeated that distinction for seven years.
Fred has held numerous leadership positions in industry related associations and organizations. He is a past-chairman of the Life Insurance Council of New York (LICONY), The American College of Financial Services and The Actuarial Foundation.
He received the highest honor bestowed upon industry leaders by the American College (The Solomon Heubner Gold Medal Award) in 2008 and was named a “Legend of the Industry'' in 2012; a joint award bestowed by the American Council of Life Insurance and The Actuarial Foundation. In December of 2013, Fred received the Lifetime Achievement award bestowed by the Million Dollar Roundtable of New York.
Following his retirement, Fred attended Yale Divinity School and was awarded a master’s degree in religion in May of 2011. He has taught business school courses on strategy and leadership and has done over 30 guest lectures on the same topics. He serves on the boards of three non-profit organizations and two for-profit corporations.
In 2014, Fred published his first book on his many personal encounters with God titled: God Revealed: Revisit Your Past to Enrich Your Future. In 2018, he published his second book containing stories of people he’s known who were in crisis and only found comfort and relief through their faith. The second book is titled: Grace Revealed: Finding God’s Strength in Any Crisis.
In 2021, he has published his third book that draws on his business experiences and his faith to offer very timely and relevant advice. The book is titled, Fast-Starting a Career of Consequence: Practical Christ-Centered Advice for Entering or Re-entering the Workforce. All three of his books are available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and on many other retail web sites. Fred has been interviewed on numerous radio and TV shows since publishing the books.
In addition to remaining active throughout his career in industry activities, Fred has also regularly participated in civic and volunteer activities in his local community and church.
Fred earned a B.A. from Amherst College, an M.A. from Wayne State University and an M.A.R. from Yale Divinity School.
He and his wife, Sue, have five grown children and five grandchildren.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
Balancing Faith, Family and Career.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Only through my Faith in God and my daily prayers and reliance on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My coping technique that allowed me to balance faith, family and career was to awaken at 4:00am, ride a stationary exercise bike for 45 minutes while receiving and sending emails on my Blackberry and later my cell phone. The emails incorporated daily messages to my wife and each of my five children. I then read a chapter from the Bible (starting with the 99 chapters of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) but eventually covering the entire Old Testament and New Testament multiple times. I then went through my daily prayer list of mostly intercessory prayers for others. In that way by 6:00am (before most people were out of bed) I had exercised, communicated with my family members, heard from God (through Bible reading) and spoke to God (in prayer).
After that the days were typically a blur of successive meetings and phone calls that delegated work, monitored progress and dealt with internal and external stakeholders and their issues and challenges..
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
I"ll mention two such lessons:
1. A leader must insist that subordinates tell the leader what he or she needs to know and not what he or she wants to hear.
2. To the greatest extent possible, an effective leader (that people will follow) should give others the credit for successes and take the blame himself or herself for failures.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
The Powell Principles: 24 Lessons from Colin Powell, a Legendary Leader by Oren Harari.
I first read an article that contained 18 lessons and while I didn't initially agree with all of them, I ultimately came to be a believer in almost all of them. I kept a copy of the article in my top desk drawer and read it monthly as a reminder for many years. The book expands on the article and adds a few more lessons.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Insist on superior performance in all positions, don't accept mediocrity. Position people in the most suitable roles which are not always the jobs they campaign for (typically to achieve title, status and compensation). Delegate as much as possible but closely monitor progress on a regular basis. Financially strive to achieve SIMULTANEOUS top line and bottom line growth.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
It is a story too long to recount here that is told in chapter one of my first book: God Revealed. The story is titled, "Saving a Family from Ruin". The reason it is so meaningful to me is it highlighted very dramatically the value of the mission of the company to secure the financial futures of the company's policyholders. It also came to me in a very providential and way at a timely moment.