NAHU Leadership Perspectives Shift to Embrace the Generations

A conversation with favorite mentors Bruce Benton and Pat Griffey

Look for a commentary in part two by Joe Navarro in January 2023


As we conclude 2022 and prepare for 2023, I find myself naturally evaluating how the year went professionally and personally. The demand to grow and adapt has been a firehose to the face for the last three years  with little break in between. Reflecting on the past 10 years of leadership in the industry professional organization, I have witnessed an evolution in intention to embrace change. I see a desire to repair possible divisions created or REVEALED in these tumultuous times so the future generations would have a different more constructive experience.

I am a GenX (1975), sometimes referred to as an Xer. I was fortunate to have a really good relationship with my maternal grandfather who had a Depression Era mindset  his parents worked on a farm in Nebraska and lived in a small house on that farm with 10 children. AND I learned years ago that next generations (Y, Millennial and beyond) would grow up with a completely different experience. This would shape how they perceive the world, and how they will show up in it. Now we will have an entirely NEW generation shaped by growing up in a global pandemic. We are going to continue to see evolution. My hope is that we can all work together and avoid past mistakes, while creating a better future for everyone.

To further that intention, I am sharing a conversation with two of my favorite mentors, Bruce Benton, past CAHU and NAHU president and Pat Griffey, past NAHU president, along with commentary by life coach Joe Navarro to be continued in the next issue, January 2023. Both Bruce and Pat have a passion for our association and its leadership. I was honored and curious to explore their experiences about years of leadership service at ALL levels — from local to national.

Here are excerpts. To watch the entire interview go here:

Dawn: Hi Pat and Bruce.

Thank you for being willing volunteers for this interview — and thank you authentically sharing your perspective on what you see happening in volunteer leadership in our industry. You have both served at many levels in the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) — as of Jan. 1, renamed National Association of Benefit and Insurance Professionals (NABIP) all the way to the top as national presidents. And you both served in VERY different times.

You have been dedicated leaders in our industry for many years. For readers reference, Bruce’s years of service with NAHU spans 2008 to 2020, serving as president, treasurer then president again. Pat’s service spans from 2017 to 2021, as NAHU vice president, president, treasurer, then president again.

1. Bruce, let’s start with you. Will you describe some of the differences you see in volunteer leadership specifically, from the time you served as national president to now?

Bruce: I see the same traits today — everyone wants to do a good job, wants to be a “servant” leader and collaborate. With fewer independent agents and more people working as employees, agents have less flexibility with their time. There is also a lack of historical perspective in our leadership, and I think people CRAVE that.

 2. Dawn: Pat, your leadership as president and past president went right up through the pandemic in 2021. What changes do you see in the new generations coming into the industry?

Pat: I see HOPE. They seem more than willing to step into leadership.

3. Dawn: What do both of you feel the next generation needs from the experienced leadership in the industry?

Pat: A leader’s FIRST responsibility is to find their replacement. AND I would like to see more seasoned leaders hop onto the mentorship wagon. 

Bruce: As I said, people crave historical perspective. I think the leaders of today are seeking and thirsty for clarity and direction. In our era, the insurance industry was a noble, highly respected profession. I have heard different perspectives on something that I feel we struggle with  not only in volunteer leadership but in business across all industries. I even saw a Dr. Phil Special on it. The perspective of generations just entering the market is that people are holding on way too long to positions (both workplace and volunteerism) which does not allow for the next generation to continue their growth. And on the flip side, we KNOW people are working longer than ever before and need to, to survive. My next few responses will be from this perspective.

4. Dawn: What responsibility, as people in volunteer leadership, do we have to ensure the next generation has the tools to help them?

Pat: Let me put this out there. To all my boomer friends, we have a great responsibility. New people (not necessarily “young” people) don’t come into the industry to fail. They simply don’t know what they don’t know.

Bruce: We need to introduce ourselves and are responsible for putting our hand out. And the association needs to be devoted to developing mentorship.

5. Dawn: How do we make sure we are teaching and sharing our experience? How do you handle it when you don’t feel heard when you are trying to share experience? My philosophy is to caution others NEVER say WE’VE ALWAYS DONE IT THAT WAY – LOL. What is the most respectful way to have these conversations in mixed rooms to avoid offending the experience in the room, while also opening the doors for new leaders to rise?

Pat: Not everyone is interested in or cut out for leadership, and I think we tend to push EVERYONE to be a leader. But there’s a lot people can do for the association without becoming a leader  just JOINING like Bruce said, makes a difference. The new folks want to know WHY they are doing what they’re doing  not just being told what to do. That’s the biggest problem I see a lot of seasoned leaders doing  thinking like a parent. It no longer works to just say, “Go this because it’s the way we’ve always done it.”

Dawn: There are So many good nuggets in that.

Pat: Simon Sinick, author of “Start With Why” came to NAHU as a speaker and started a seismic shift. Most people can tell you what or how, but few can say WHY. That’s what separates previous generations from this generation coming in. They want to know WHY first. And we are starting to do that. WHY is at the heart of the Vision 2025 planning, including the name change. There’s SO many transformations taking place. It’s been a phenomenal trip.

6. Dawn: With technology, working from home and demanding more balance in life — what are the pros and cons in volunteer leadership AND in general? How do these changes impact how we interact as a volunteer organization?

Bruce: This worries me a lot. Virtual attendance is necessary since the pandemic — it even opened the opportunities for more to join. The answer is we have to meet people where they are.

Dawn: Yes, I agree. Our job is to go to where people are and let them know what we are working on. IF they KNEW I believe they would engage. Our mission is INDUSTRY WIDE, so if they knew what we are advocating for, and the fact that if they were a part of us, they would be influencing what happens — and they would find that they are very welcome. 

7. Last question – what top three pieces of advice be to anyone interested in serving in leadership?

Pat: First, keep an eye to the future and be open to new ideas. Honoring that WHY was one of the key elements of Vision 2025. I’m not that smart so I had
to make a platform available to innovators to share ideas. 

Dawn: Wise you are.

Pat: Second – find a mentor and be a mentor. Third, allow time to dig deep and question your own preconceived notions, as opposed to taking the easy path because it is what we’ve always done. That’s not what’s going to get us where we need to be now.

Bruce: Mine aren’t so different — no surprise. First — I’ve always loved the “servant“ leader approach — this is the approach I suggest for anyone interested in leadership. The true
‘servants’ I’ve met are in it for the right reason, they stay humble and they leave their ego at the door. Second — I’ve always been big on clarity. Clarity is KING. I felt I could have done a better job explaining how NAHU operates from a government relations perspective  we are a non-partisan, unbiased organization of insurance professionals. Our role is to examine proposed legislation and its potential effects with a simple explanation of WHY. So simple that you could explain it to your mom without her eyes rolling up – to give legislators a clear perspective on why we feel a certain way about the effects of proposed legislation on the insurance market. Third — be mindful of being extremely patient, tolerant and understanding of everyone you come across. Practice loving kindness and compassion, because we are all in this together. 

Dawn: Thank you both for your continued service and desire to support the next generation wanting to learn from you. I admire both of you so much.

To watch the entire interview go here:

Dawn: I was surprised that Joe Navarro’s message that you’ll read about in the January 2023 issue was about mentorship and its value in NAHU/NABIP. It was not something we discussed beforehand. Synchronistically, it has been a topic in many of the NAHU leadership committees we now have NAHU Leadership Academy, AND we also have an active mentorship program which has been piloted for the last 18 months with mentors in leadership across the country. The NAHU Leadership & Development committee Mentor Task Force revamped the program with help and support from the CAHU Foundation. We have joined together to help get the word out! (Shout out to Tim Kanter and Vanessa Ignacio. Thank you for collaborating and continuing to support leadership growth.) I am a superfan of our trade association for a lot of reasons. The most important is the mentorship (often turned to friendship) that has helped me grow both professionally and personally. I adhere to the saying ”if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room” with a caveat: if you can raise others up, you should be in those rooms sharing your experience. I’d be willing to bet we will all continue to learn a lot from each other.

Include Volunteering in Your New Year’s Resolutions

So, friends and esteemed colleagues, as you make plans for 2023, please include some time to volunteer. Wherever you are most passionate, your service is needed. Be a mentor or get linked up with a mentor. Serve on a local board, or serve on a local committee.

Go to the Capitol Conference in D.C. Attend your state lobbying event {CAHIP is scheduled in Sacramento for May 8-10, 2023}. All are ways you can contribute.

And if you discover a call to leadership along the way — remember the great Steven Covey quote ”Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This will open minds and hearts.
Here is my familiar membership pitch: if you are getting a paycheck in the health insurance industry, you should be a member of the National Association of Benefits and Insurance Professionals (as of January 1st NABIP – formerly NAHU). Even if that is not where you choose to volunteer, the small monthly fee is worth the advocacy done on your behalf and for your clients.
Sending holiday love to everyone. Cheers for a fruitful 2023!


DAWN MCFARLAND is VP of legislation for CAHU (now known as CAHIP), president of M&M Benefits Solutions in Los Angeles and the vice chair for the Leadership & Development Committee for NAHU (now NABIP).

1(805) 701-1229


Past NAHU president



Past CAHU and NAHU president, Owner, Genesis Financial & Insurance Services