Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Cultivating Leadership

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

Cultivating Leadership

Article excerpt

Most CPAs promoted to leadership positions get there because of their technical skills and professional prowess. In many cases, however, the same CPAs have not been prepared to act as leaders. The following steps show what employers can do to cultivate leadership skills.

[check] Emphasize business acumen, curiosity, and strategic sensibility early in CPAs' careers and when making promotions. Ask promotion candidates about their clients' business issues and strategy and the forces affecting their clients' industries. Query young CPAs about business and economic issues beyond the confines of the SEC and FASB. Test their curiosity about the state of the firm or company. When given a choice between two promotion candidates of equal technical competence, choose the broader and more curious one. When an organization's senior professionals possess even a little bit more business acumen and curiosity, the quality of leadership increases dramatically

[check] Embrace the nuance of leadership decisions and resist the urge to oversimplify. When an organization's leaders package arguments to senior professionals and "spin" the right answer, it insults those professionals' intelligence and discourages them from asking questions. Over time, this dumbs them down. Decisions get messier and more uncertain the higher up in the organization you go. Expect senior professionals to understand and accept these complex trade-offs.

[check] Establish a culture that encourages debate in the decision-making process. It can be time-consuming and painful to talk through alternatives, but the process can produce at least two major positives. First, the quality of the solution improves because the alternatives are thoroughly tested. Second, support for the decision can grow even among some who backed another course of action, because virtually everyone will understand what's being done and why.

[check] Include newer, emerging leaders on internal task forces and give them a substantial job to do. …

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