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Leaders All Around Us

Inside NAPA

In the fall issue of NAPA Net the Magazine, I wrote about the “Butterfly Effect” and how I truly feel that it is our industry and our awesome plan advisors that kicked off the idea of collapsing the silos around the health and wealth discussions. 

We have been forward thinkers about financial wellness, and now we see the results in the new products and services that are being launched almost on a weekly basis. I see the impact we are making on this front, even in other industries – so kudos to us! 

I am writing this column on Veteran’s Day and I can’t help but think about the word leadership. In September, the NAPA Leadership Council held our two-day meeting in Annapolis, MD. Part of the agenda was a walking “Leadership Tour” at the U.S. Naval Academy. We were led by Daniel Morris, a retired Navy officer, who spoke about some historical events and the leadership lessons in each of them. It was a moving experience. 

One thing that struck me while listening to him speak was that we are all leaders, even in our own small world. We might lead a team, we might lead a client meeting, or we might lead an industry – but all of us will be called upon at some point in our careers to be a leader.

Morris shared these words from John A. Lejuene, the Marine Corps’ 13th Commandant, who served in the Marines for nearly 40 years and commanded the U.S. Army’s 2nd Division during World War I:

Leadership is the sum of those qualities of intellect, human understanding, and moral character that enables a person to inspire and control a group of people successfully.

To me those words are quite powerful. I believe they can be applied to what we are doing when we help plan sponsors design good retirement programs and at the same time inspire working Americans to do better – in their financial picture as well as their overall wellness. 

Read more commentary from Jania Stout here.

I think we can all look back at the milestones we have achieved with a smile. What a year 2019 was  – kicking off in April with the NAPA 401(k) Summit, where thousands of advisors gathered to learn ways to impact outcomes for our plan sponsors and plan participants. 

I have to chuckle to myself at times when I think back to when the Pension Protection Act was passed, and plan sponsors started to adopt automatic enrollment. There may have been some at the time who thought we had figured out how to fix some of the problems of participation. Lo and behold, however, we soon realized there was more work to do – and many of you stepped up to meet that challenge, and became leaders by doing even more. 

We have put our profession on the map as leaders in an industry that needed moral leadership. I can’t wait to see what we do in 2020! I also hope to see some of the wonderful women in our industry at this month’s Women in Retirement Conference (WiRC) in New Orleans. It is going to be epic! 

Jania Stout is the co-founder and managing director of Fiduciary Plan Advisors at HighTower in Owings Mills, MD. She serves as NAPA’s 2019-2020 President. This column was originally published in the Fall issue of NAPA Net the Magazine.