My inspiration for this article came from the Growth Faculty, which I noted in another article as the organisation that brought Barack Obama to Australia recently.
They published a monograph, drawing on the ideas of the many speakers they present to list 10 leadership qualities they believe will help solve challenges in 2023. I thought it would be useful to look at the list and comment on them in the context of running a better accounting firm.
- Self awareness – Know your impact
I often remind leaders of firms that they are “always on stage”. Your actions and words are closely watched and often mimicked. As Naomi Simson (Red Balloon, Shark Tank) is well known for saying “where the leaders go so too does the business”.
- Empathy – Love difference in others
Not everyone is like you! (And that is good!). As an accredited Everything DiSC facilitator I love to use the Everything DiSC framework and case studies to bring this idea to life. There is always something positive to find in the differences of others. Diversity in our workplaces is a good thing as it brings different and useful perspectives.
- Vulnerability and humility – Trust and be trusted
Most accountants are familiar with the idea that they become the “trusted advisor” to their clients but are sometime less aware of the need to build trust with their own team. Displaying your vulnerability in my experience is a powerful way to build a stronger connection with your people. You don’t have to be perfect!
- Team builder – Empower Others
This is one I definitely see many leaders struggling with. For a whole bunch of mostly terrible reasons, I see leaders as poor delegators, with a reluctance to let go. It’s one of the key reasons I have the art of delegation as one of the foundation modules in my Manager Development Program. This is also about “getting the right people on the bus” as Jim Collins so famously said.
- Growth mindset – Keep learning
One of my core beliefs is the value of life-long learning. There are always opportunities to develop personally and professional and to grow our businesses with new ways of operating. Leadership is a skill that can be learned and developed.
- Communication – be clear and positive
It’s not uncommon for accountants I talk to inside firms to say something like “the communication here is not very good”. For me this starts with clear communication about the vision and values of your firm and flows from there to include a regular rhythm of meetings, emails and other methods to be sure your communication is clear. Whenever I chair a meeting of partners/directors I have the last item on the agenda as “What do we need to share with our team coming out of this meeting?”
- Commitment to improvement – Be a better you
This ties into number 5 above. I want to see firms have a genuine culture of continuous improvement. I’m also looking for leaders to bring the best version of themselves to work each day and find ways to be even better.
- Scientific thinking – question assumptions
It is so, so easy to accept assumptions without due consideration. Whether it be climate change, better priority management or any number of other things, making sure we have data and facts to support our views is critical. Consider the reasons you might be wrong about something as well as why you might be right.
- Active listener – stay curious longer
This is hard! Another topic I talk about in my Manager Development Program because as smart accountants we are often just a little too keen in my view to jump in and know the answer without getting the full story. Don’t dismiss ideas until they are fully understood. As humans we all like to feel like we are being heard.
- Digital competency – Keep up and then some
This is a biggy for accounting firms. For example if you are not across Chat GPT and Robotic Process Automation at present then you are missing out on great opportunities to work more efficiently and effectively. It’s a digital world – embrace it! See may articles n the use of ChatGPT here: How accountants are using ChatGPT – Planet Consulting and here: Why accountants should pay attention to ChatGPT – Planet Consulting
I suggest you talk to your team about each of these 10 qualities. Ask them how they would rate you in respect of each. Wrap your arms around that feedback with positivity and use it to guide you to improve – keep learning and be a better you.