Rugby Leadership Summit Builds the Next Generation of Leaders

Jessica Choi

By Jessica Choi | July 11, 2017

After this year’s Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, we held an invitation-only Leadership Summit for a select group of rugby players. Not only does Penn Mutual love rugby, we also want to help build the next generation of leaders.

The theme of the Leadership Summit was “Unlocking Your Leadership Potential.” All teams participating in the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship were encouraged to nominate someone for the summit, either by the coaches or by the students themselves, and Penn Mutual invited 20 to attend.

The Leadership Summit grew from a suggestion by a college rugby player who was working with us during an “externship” at Penn Mutual’s headquarters. Not every student athlete is able to commit the entire 10 to 13 weeks that is required in an internship, so we provided rugby players with a short externship program that gave them exposure to Penn Mutual. Gator Adams of Claremont College shared with us that one of his best experiences in visits with other financial services organizations had been during an intensive symposium on leadership. Gator suggested we hold a similar Leadership Summit ourselves, developing the students as leaders while introducing them to Penn Mutual and the financial services industry. We thought this was a great idea and gave Gator the green light. He was integral in designing the program.

Tom Harris, executive vice president, distribution, and chairman, Hornor, Townsend, & Kent, Inc. (HTK), kicked off the one-day event by asking, “What does leadership mean to you?” Each of the students provided eloquent definitions. What we love about rugby players are the values that they bring to the sport: Collaboration, teamwork, integrity, friendly competition, and focus. These all align with our own values here at Penn Mutual and were things we expected to come up during the Leadership Summit. Whether someone is number one or number fifteen on the rugby team, it’s not just the captain that makes the call. Everyone has a role to play in the team’s success and everyone has an opportunity to be a leader.

Eileen McDonnell, chairman and chief executive officer of Penn Mutual, and other members of the Penn Mutual executive team participated in the Summit. Eileen even posed for a selfie with the students, which I shared on LinkedIn with the caption, “How Many Fortune 1000 Executives Do Selfies with Students?” It got over 6,400 views.

The highlight of the day was a session led by an author and executive coach, Dr. Paulette Gabriel, which focused on unlocking the students’ leadership potential. The attendees assessed their leadership style and how their actions contribute to the success of their team and their other activities in life.

I truly believe that the students walked out of the Leadership Summit knowing how they can contribute as a leader, whether it’s on their rugby team or in their community. Many of the participants had been nominated for the Penn Mutual Life of Significance Award. Gator Adams was one of the past nominees for the award, and he also participated in the Leadership Summit, so he got to actually see the program he helped design come to fruition. Another participant was Paige Kirby, who was an intern with Penn Mutual last year and was a winner of our A Day in the Life of an Intern program.

Our first Leadership Summit was a success. Several students are exploring career opportunities within Penn Mutual, referred their friends for an interview, and have started a summer internship with us. Our sponsorship of collegiate rugby is not just about the game, but it’s also about developing the players outside of the game. Rugby is a great training ground for future leaders, and we want to do whatever we can to help develop those leaders. They love us for our support of rugby, but we also want them to get to know more about Penn Mutual as a company.

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