What is leadership? By Jeffrey C. Thomson Leading CFOs around the world say they need “it” to bring their teams to the next level in driving business performance within their organizations. Members of the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA®) say they need “it” to advance their careers or those of their management accounting and finance-functionstaff. What is “it”? “It” is Financial Leadership. Much like learning or striving to be a “good” person or a “great” organization, the notion of achieving financial leadership is a reasonable aspiration, but what does it mean exactly? In this article we’ll explore what financial leadership means in practical terms. My intent is for this to open a discussion and be an engagement in critical thinking,not a clear-cut set of solutions or answers. In fact, one of my premises is that leadership in general isn’t a point-in-time end state— it’s a continuum of experiences, skills, and always reaching beyond your current set of belief systems and experiences. WHAT IS LEADERSHIP? Let’s examine this question from two perspectives: the view of a leading practitioner who clearly achieved leadershipstatus and the view of a prominent author on the topic of leadership. IMA Chair Emeritus Bill Brower, CMA, CFM, served as group vice president of finance at Johnson & Johnson, one of the world’s preeminent corporations, before he retired. Bill has spoken around the world on the topic of management behaviors and functions vs. leadership behaviors and functions. At IMA’s Second Annual Global Conferencein Dubai last May, he provided the “six Cs of leadership credibility” (the six Cs were also presented at another IMA conference by Charles Christy, EVP and CFO of Citizens Banking Corporation). They are: Conviction—The passion and commitment an individual has toward his/her views or the views of others. Character—Consistent demonstration of integrity, honesty, respect, and trust. A “table stake”for leadership—a must to be a successful leader. No questions asked. Care—Demonstration of concern for the personal and professional well-being of others. This includes the notion of “followership.” Leadership is about influencing others to follow in terms of strategic direction, critical thinking, passion for success, etc. Courage—Willingness to stand up for your beliefs, challenge others, admitmistakes, and change your own behaviors when necessary. Willingness to engage in “constructive contention” to professionally challenge or question the status quo or strongly held views. Composure—Consistent display of appropriate emotional reactions,
FINANCIAL LEADERSHIP: WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
particularly in tough or crisis situations (includes aforementioned constructive contentionskill). Competence—Proficiency in technical skills and “soft” behavioral skills. “hard” human
The Law of Connection—Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand. “It’s one thing to communicate to people because you believe you have something of value to say. It’s another to communicate with people because you believe they have value.” The Law of Empowerment—Only secure leaders give power toothers. “Leading well is not about enriching yourself—it’s about empowering others.” The Law of the Buy-In—People buy into the leader, then the vision. “The leader finds the dream and then the people. The people find the leader and then the dream.” WHAT DOES THE MARKET SAY? As a practitioner in the highly combative telecom wars for more than 23 years, I always learned to listen to the voice of “themarket.” But sometimes the market (customers, members, shareholders, stakeholders, etc.) tends to be shortsighted and focused only on solving the major “pain points” or critical business issues of the day. A market view must always be balanced with a broader look to the future of the business, the future of the profession, etc. Otherwise, for example, how many of the technological advances of our...