The former chief executive officer of XL Group, Mike McGavick, admits that frequently during his career he has taken on leadership roles that some of his contemporaries considered too hot to handle—such as the turnarounds he led at XL Group and Safeco.

Executive Summary

As a young man, Mike McGavick received advice from an admired mentor, who recommended thinking past the easy answers to find innovative solutions for difficult problems. It's been advice he's often recalled through the years as he took on leadership roles at several troubled insurers—career stories he shares here with CM's International Editor L.S. Howard.

“I’ve consistently gotten jobs that no one else wanted. I’ve always walked into situations where there was a pretty dire need to rethink the business,” he recalled.

Indeed, after the successful turnarounds at Safeco and XL, he subsequently discovered that “much, much better names than me” had turned down offers to run the companies.

He feels lucky that these roles fell to him, even if by default.

So, how did McGavick develop the dogged determination—some would say courage—to run troubled companies and help return them to strong financial health?

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