As a child, I was small, but I was a very fast runner. In fact, my friends nicknamed me "Cookin'" because of my reputation for smoking the competition whenever we played a game or engaged in a sport that involved running. Although many years have passed, friends still say that I tend to "cook" a little bit when it comes to athletic competition.
As a youngster, Brian Little, Vice President of Human Resources for Zurich North America Insurance Company, enjoyed healthy competitions. Since joining Zurich three years ago, he's continued to compete successfully, helping Zurich become significantly more agile and effective as it reduced size and overhead but stayed profitable.
Little's team provides human-capital strategy, talent management, learning, employee relations, and HR policy management for Zurich and its 8,000 employees. The group also serves as the interface to global recruiting, HR information systems, HR operations, benefits, and compensation.
Little brings many tremendous assets to the table, because he has expertise in leadership development, executive coaching, recruiting, learning, diversity, and strategy. He also has extensive HR experience across four different industries — gas and electric utilities, petroleum, telephony, and financial services. But, in addition to those qualifications, Little is an inspiring and exemplary leader.
"Brian models key leadership behaviors," says Kathleen Savio, Executive Vice President and Chief Administration Officer for Zurich North America and Little's nominator for the Eagle Award. "Those include integrity, teamwork, collaboration, and recognition of his colleagues' contributions. He creates strong teams and followership and builds highly sustainable interpersonal relationships. He has been a talent magnet for our organization, and his deep and active involvement in the community is infectious."
Little says that one of the pillars of business success is to "Consistently nurture and leverage diversity, because it is good for customers, shareholders, employees, and the community."
The values he upholds as an individual also closely mirror those that he emulates in his professional life and career. "I know that, in my work, I can make a difference in someone's life each day," Little explains. But, to accomplish that, he says that it is important to be a person of unwavering honesty and integrity.
"Always remain the same authentic person," Little advises, "regardless of where you are, what you are doing, and who is watching."
Millions watched Little on television when he was featured in the PBS documentary Fathers and Daughters — Journeys of the Heart, a program that explores the special father-daughter relationship.
"My wife and children have a way of bringing me down to earth and reminding me of life's priorities," Little explains. "I also have close relationships with my extended family. We are a village, and I know they will always provide me the love and support I need to get through anything. My life's purpose centers on my family, my faith, and my overall growth as a person."
Giving back to the community is a passion that Little shares with his family. "Each year, we continue to provide holiday gifts and food for those less fortunate," says Little, "and, throughout the year, we work with multiple organizations such as the Special Olympics and Junior Achievement." Little's 16-year-old son even earned a community service medal from President Obama, in recognition of his volunteerism.
But when Little needs some solitude to clear his mind, he turns to running —the same activity that earned him his childhood nickname. "Running allows me the freedom to think and get outside of myself," he says, "and to process everything around me."
CareerFOCUS Magazine and the National Eagle Leadership Institute® salute 2012 Eagle Award winner Brian Little.