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Zach Ziliak shows his son Zander, 3, how to guide their champion hog Hampie while holding his daughter Harper, 11 months, at Hilligoss Farms in South Whitley.
IN The Lead/ Zach Ziliak

Passionate about people

Staying focused on individuals key for Star Insurance vice president

Photos by Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Zach Ziliak is the vice president of Star Insurance and owns a grain farm in South Whitley.
Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Ziliak sits for a photograph on his combine with his son Zander, 3, and daughter Harper, 11 months.

Zach Ziliak, 35, is vice president at Star Insurance, which has its main office in Columbia City.

Community and leadership involvement: Chairman of Parkview Whitley Foundation Board, United Way Day of Caring Committee in Whitley County, which helps nonprofits with projects such as painting or some repair work. Member of parish council of St. Catherine Church south of Columbia City, and alumnus of Leadership Whitley County.

Most recent accomplishment: Being asked to emcee Star Financial Bank’s annual Star Day, an annual employee recognition program for the company, which has about 700 employees.

What makes a leader: “A leader is someone who is passionate not about an end goal but the individual people who achieve a goal,” Ziliak said. Often there’s a tendency by leaders to focus on the dollars involved with a project or goal, which can mean “we forget about developing the people,” Ziliak said. If the focus is on developing the skills, character and other traits for people involved “it always turns into growth on the business side,” he said.

Leadership traits you most value: Honesty, integrity and hard work

Best leadership book you’ve read: “Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections on and Off the Court” by Coach John Wooden with Steve Jamison. “Wooden illustrates very simple concepts on how to approach leadership and the importance of the basics,” Ziliak said. “In the book, he describes a very elaborate process of simply putting on a pair of basketball shoes. At first I laughed, but as I read on he describes all the injuries or opportunities an individual could potentially give up by not following the process. This one example constantly reminds me of the significant impact I can make with the basics of leadership.”

Best ways to overcome self doubt: “I try to over prepare for situations to minimize any self-doubt but in the moment I try to make the best of any situation,” Ziliak said.

Time management tips: Daily to-do lists accompanied with a very specific overall plan to achieve goals.

Role model(s) and why: “I have looked up to my father (Rick Ziliak of Griffin, Ind.) over the years because of the adversity he has faced in starting a grain farming operation in the late 70’s through some difficult times with land price fluctuations and droughts,” Ziliak said in an email. “He has always stayed positive towards a bigger picture while finding ways to conquer issues one step at a time.”

Describe one leadership challenge and how you resolved it: “One of the difficult challenges we face is how to keep up with all the great technology being implemented without losing the relationships with our customers,” Ziliak said. “Our current resolution has been to take baby steps with all the advances and be cautious of our customer’s desires.”

The dynamics of technology and communication are often contrasted when considering younger and older customers. Some younger customers are so into technology and electronic communication that it can be challenging to reach out and develop rapport and personal relationships, Ziliak said. Some older people, however, may shy away from handling business and communication using technology – which can be more efficient – because they prefer direct contact.

What are your goals: To raise his family on a farm and develop work ethics to ensure future successes.

Hobbies: Golf, grain farm, and participate in 4-H activities with my kids.

Family: Danielle, wife of 10 years; children Laney, 6, Zander, 3, and Harper, 1.

– Compiled by Lisa Green, The Journal Gazette.

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