By Jim Wong, CPA | February 25, 2015

“The ability of a leader to be human, to not feel the need to command all the answers, and to surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are, is the real key.” —Bob Berk

Everywhere you look in life there are leaders and there are followers. Whether you’re at the office, at a sporting event, at home or in a grocery store, you see people acting out specific roles. There are CEOs, coaches, heads of the family, and managers – all who have the task of leading a group to a certain end result. In the accounting, finance and IT professions, this is no different. A Controller, Director of Finance and an IT Director must lead their function effectively and contribute to the success of the business.

Leading or managing effectively can be a challenge to some and for others it can be as natural as getting up in the morning. That’s why great leaders are unique and few and far between. They tend to be methodical and deliberate in their actions – inspiring their teams to be just as great.

A recent e-book, What Makes a CFO great? discusses the characteristics and skillsets needed for leadership and management to be great in their roles. Contrary to what some people think, a company is not led by one person. It takes groups of people and great leaders within those groups to collectively lead a company, and its respective functions.

Below are several points from the e-book as well as a few of our own regarding what constitutes a great accounting, finance and IT leader or manager:

Make a difference.

Great leaders and managers bring excellence to the table. The e-book states, “It’s the value that you add in the discussions that take place around the senior management or board table. That comes through understanding how an organization works, understanding what’s important to your colleagues, and them making a difference accordingly.” Having the experience to succinctly and confidently speak to any issues regarding your function and team, and be armed with the data that supports your stance, allows you to stand out from other leaders – and make a difference.

Have a common goal.

Clearly expressing to your employees what the goals are for your function and for the company as a whole is very important. When you explain how a person’s position as bookkeeper, financial analyst or programmer plays a pivotal part in achieving those goals, it shows you value and respect their efforts. Any great leader or manager knows that when a team is striving for the same end result, and they have a high regard for you as their manager, positive things happen.

Collaborate and Lead.

Great leaders know how to finesse leading their own team with being an integral part of the management team. Having a strong grasp on this dual role is critical. They must rely on the team under them of payroll processors, auditors and developers to move the business along competently – while still leading with the right mix of skills. Many accounting, finance and IT leaders and managers are numbers people. So, building a team and collaborating with other managers may be challenging. You have to find the right people under you who are knowledgeable, while personally having the skills to build a strong team, and interact with other senior-level management. According to the e-book, leaders who are most effective, “establish ground rules for how they’re going to communicate, make decisions, handle conflict, and evaluate performance.”

Be a risk taker.

Everyone defines risk differently. More than 10 years ago, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act highlighted the need for improved corporate risk management but others considered the regulation would simply produce other areas of risk. Some accounting, finance and IT leaders and managers approach risk from a strategic perspective. But risk, in the fundamental sense, can be about taking chances that other leaders and managers aren’t willing to take. Bob Berk, CEO-mentor and author of Leadership Between the Sheets adds, “It’s the ability to see around the corner, disrupt your business, and take the risk needed to move your business forward at the right time that will truly make you an authentic, effective leader.”

*Stayed tuned for A Brilliant™ Blog – Check In With Jim’s How to Be a Great Leader Part 2 coming soon!

What are some other ways to be a great leader? Comment below and let us know!

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