Are you a leader?
You may not think so, but often you are perceived as one. This article contains insights which will help you own the label of leader.
First, why must you step up and be a leader? The accounting profession needs more people to lead. Accounting is complex and requires strategic leaders. The world we live in desires leaders. If you are not a leader, you miss the opportunity to be part of the solution.
Insight #1 – Leadership is an Attitude, Not a Title
Take this Leadership Self-Assessment to determine if you have the attitude of a leader.
- Do you see things that need improving and feel frustrated because they are not? Yes___ No___
- Do you find yourself saying, ‘If only someone would take charge, we wouldn’t be in this mess?’ Yes___ No___
- Do you feel frustrated with the pace of change because either no one recognizes the need or no one wants to be the first to act? Yes___ No___
If you answered “yes” to all three, you understand the first phase of leading.
Take part two of this Leadership Self-Assessment to determine if you are a leader.
4a. When you see something that needs to improve, do you do something about it? Yes___ No___
4b. Do you empower others to contribute something constructive to the situation? Yes___ No___
5a. When you are in a situation without a leader, do you volunteer? Yes___ No___
5b. Do you recruit others to help you in the effort? Yes___ No___
6a. When you are frustrated because no one has the urgency to change what’s not working, do you become the first person to act? Yes___ No___
6b. Do you then encourage others to follow your lead? Yes___ No___
If you answered “yes” to questions 4a, 5a, and 6a, then you understand the second phase of leading others. If you answered “yes” to questions 4b, 5b, and 6b, then you are becoming a true leader in the third phase.
Insight #2 –Leadership Development has 3 Phases
The first phase of true leadership is discontent with the status quo.
- A leader is a change agent first and foremost.
If you get frustrated because no one is solving a problem, you recognize that with leadership, things can improve. Awareness of a problem is the first phase of being a true leader and why paying attention to your dissatisfaction level is important as you develop.
Each time you say, “I’ll take care of this!” you have reached the second phase of leading others.
- Leadership is saying, ‘I will do it,” especially when no one else is willing. Leaders don’t wait to be asked.
In the self-assessment, if you answered “yes” to the questions about engaging others, you have entered the third phase of leading.
- The objective of leadership is getting others committed to solving problems and owning solutions.
What phase of leadership are you in? If you have not yet reached Phase 2 or 3 in your development, you know what you must do.
Insight #3 – Management Accounting has 5 Levels of Leadership
In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins and his research team studied 1,435 companies to determine why the best stood out as great companies. Only 11 of the 1,435 made the cut. Of the final 11, his team found one differentiating factor which was in the quality of their senior leader. Here is a brief summary of the good-to-great leadership model because it influences the definition of a great finance leader.
Five Levels of Leaders
Level 1–Highly Capable Individual
Makes productive contributions through talent, knowledge, skills, and good work habits.
Level 2–Contributing Team Member
Contributes to the achievement of team objectives and goals effectively in a group setting.
Level 3–Competent Manager
Organizes people and resources toward effective completion of objectives.
Level 4-Effective Leader
Gains commitment and stimulates high-performance standards while motivating others in pursuit of goals.
Builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.
In the following formula, Collins summarizes what a Level 5 Leader is:
Humility + Will = Level 5
According to Collins, “Level 5 leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious—but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.”
I see five levels of leadership in management accounting, each with its own merits. Using the model above, I developed this synopsis of an outstanding leader in the accounting profession.
5 Levels of Accounting Leadership
Level 1-Technician or Analyst
Makes productive contributions to accounting through talent, knowledge, skills, and a solid work ethic, usually in a role as lead.
Level 2-Supervisor of Processes, People, or Technology
Contributes specific capabilities to the achievement of the team’s objectives and goals. This role is performed in a team setting, usually as a specialist or project manager.
Level 3-Team Leader and Technician
Organizes people and resources toward the pursuit of team goals while staying on top of the broader role that ranges beyond a specialist into one of a generalist.
Level 4-Leader of People
Generates commitment and enthusiasm from the team for the pursuit of a compelling vision, while raising the bar on a team and individual performance. This empowered person requires little direction and assists in driving the “team bus.”
Level 5-Leader of Assets and Strategist
The self-directed driver behind the team’s success builds sustainable performance and quality through a blend of humility and conscience. Flies strategically at 34,000 feet and walks in the trenches of daily bean counting. Turns the accounting function into a support unit for the entire organization, and assists in driving the “company bus.”
This formula explains a Level 5 Accounting Leader:
Strategist + Technician + Influencer = Level 5
* Bus is a term used by Jim Collins to represent a team or company.
What This Means for You and Your Employer
I am often asked, “Why are my employees not taking charge even when the need is apparent?” Many organizations are filled with reluctant leaders. Reluctant leaders are expected to lead but do not own the label. As a result of this widespread reluctance, the employer suffers when employees do not make improvements, fix problems, or take charge of situations. On the bright side, professionals in accounting and elsewhere who define themselves as a true leader enjoy greater freedom, respect, and cooperation from others.
If you are dissatisfied with the way things are, then you can either a) step up and take a leadership role, or b) stop complaining because you are not improving the situation. High-quality leaders are needed in all aspects of business and society. Most of the intractable problems that exist are created because of the dearth of Level 5 leadership.
Still not convinced? Maybe the Natural Law of Leadership #1 will convince you.
The success and failure of any nation, state, organization, and/or team is dependent on the quality of its leadership.
Do you want to feel successful? Do you want your team and company to be successful? If so, then adopt the leadership attitude.