Magazine article Government Finance Review

Leadership in the Government Finance Profession: A Texas Perspective

Magazine article Government Finance Review

Leadership in the Government Finance Profession: A Texas Perspective

Article excerpt


A version of this article originally appeared in the July 2010 issue of the Government Finance Officers Association of Texas Newsletter, available at

Many finance officers never contemplate what type of leader they are. Many of us think of ourselves as good supervisors and managers, but do not equate those roles with leadership. We do not always ask ourselves what leadership means to being well-rounded finance directors who bring value to the organization we serve. What constitutes effective leadership skills? Should finance officers, so concerned with maintaining the integrity of city's finances, give much thought to leadership? Also, what style of leadership do city managers expect of their finance directors? This article outlines the results of a research project that sought answers about what leadership means in the government finance profession.

It was not until I took a course in leadership, early in my pursuit of a doctorate in public affairs at the University of Texas at Dallas, that I began considering these questions and, as a result, decided to adopt the study of leadership in the finance profession as the topic of my doctoral dissertation. In addition to studying the literature of leadership and the published research pertaining to this field, I wanted to conduct my own survey of how finance directors in Texas perceive their leadership skills. I also wanted to gauge what Texas city managers felt about how well their management teams demonstrate leadership and how they evaluate the leadership skills displayed by their finance directors. My review of published studies indicated that this survey would be the first of its kind. Very few studies have been conducted on leadership in the finance profession, and none have focused on municipal finance officers. Also, most leadership surveys have concentrated on how subordinates perceive their superiors' leadership skills; this survey would be among the first to solicit the opinions of superiors.

After obtaining the endorsement of the Government Finance Officers Association of Texas (GFOAT) and the Texas City Management Association, I distributed e-mails to a sample of 201 Texas municipal finance directors and their city managers, inviting them to participate in an online survey. Responses were received from 134 finance directors and 94 city managers, response rates of 67 percent and 47 percent, respectively. The goal of the survey was to test a number of hypotheses related to leadership. Is effective leadership correlated with personal traits? Are finance directors' leadership skills affected by the field of study or the extent of leadership training they receive during their careers? Human behavior is influenced by so many variables that there is no single key to how a person will act under varying circumstances, but the survey results did reveal some interesting aspects of government finance officers in Texas and how they are perceived by Texas city managers.


Neither the Government Finance Officers Association nor the GFOAT maintains demographic data on their membership. Assuming that the survey respondents are representative of the profession in Texas, analysis of the survey results provides some idea as to the demographics of the profession. The majority of finance directors in Texas are women--54 percent. Anecdotally, 20 years ago, many more finance officers were men, probably close to two-thirds the association's membership. So our profession has become more diversified by gender within a generation. This diversification does not appear to extend to ethnicity, however. More than 80 percent of respondents indicated they are white, and 13 percent, Hispanic/Latino. Three percent of respondents are African American, and the remaining three percent comprise other backgrounds. This composition is not representative of the state's population, which is 35 percent white, 35 percent Hispanic/Latino, 12 percent African American, and 18 percent other. …

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