Leadership Lessons with Kurt Carlson, President & CEO of Propel Insurance

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In autumn quarter, the Milgard Center for Leadership and Social Responsibility (CLSR) launched an interview series called Leadership Lessons which aims to highlight the leadership wisdom of local executives and visionaries within the greater Puget Sound Community. Part one of this series features Kurt Carlson, CEO of Propel Insurance and recipient of the 2019 Business Leader of the Year award.

Leadership Lessons with Kurt Carlson, President & CEO of Propel Insurance

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Kurt Carlson, CEO of Propel Insurance

Through his conversation with Milgard Professor and CLSR Fellow, Dr. Kent Nelson, Carlson gives the viewer a glimpse into the principles and practices that guide his leadership as CEO at the oldest independent insurance broker in the Pacific Northwest.

Throughout the interview, Carlson stresses the criticality of listening carefully, being authentic, and enabling the success of others. At Propel, Carlson paves the way for his employees to embrace these values by walking the walk and leading by example.

To ensure accountability in his leadership, Carlson puts himself into a “learning mode” while at work to feel the pulse of the company’s culture and to ensure he is listening to, and acting upon, the needs of his various stakeholders.

Carlson also stresses the importance of bringing your authentic self to the table and demonstrating you care, whether it is through small talk in the hallways or enabling others to do the best they can in their work. This authenticity, he continues, is the cornerstone of building strong relationships with your team, which ultimately helps to shape the culture of an organization.

Lastly, Carlson shares his view on the two types of people in the world: “those who push others down, and those who pull others up.” At Propel, he makes it clear that the latter of these views is embraced and encouraged. He points out that working for a company is a group sport, and that by pulling those around you up, the entire organization benefits and thrives.

As the interview closes, Carlson urges aspiring leaders to “believe in what you’re doing but don’t be so rigid that you can’t alter your view of the world.” He warns that nobody is perfect, and at the end of the day, “the most important thing is getting along with others, listening, and making informed decisions.”

Watch the entire interview with Kurt Carlson here.


Written by: 
Shane Benoit / February 18, 2021
Photos by: 
Propel Insurance / Milgard Staff
Media contact: 

Shane Benoit