Over the past two decades, financial leaders have come to play an increasingly important role. An ever-complex international business world, coupled with constantly changing legislation has heightened the importance of strong financial leaders, such as Controllers, Treasurers, and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs).
But what sets an outstanding financial leader apart from a simply mediocre one? According to a number of experts, financial leaders need more than just financial expertise in order to be successful. They must also possess the qualities of a successful manager. Here are a few examples of the kinds of skills you’ll need to cultivate if you want to make the move from merely mediocre to overtly outstanding:
- Leadership Skills: Recognizing that being a financial leader entails interacting with more than just accountants, top financial professionals take time to cultivate their overall leadership skills. Effecting change requires sharing a vision with key business leaders and stakeholders. This requires the ability to project strong leadership, thus inspiring others to follow the vision they have set forth.
- Technology: It’s easy to assume that technology is the domain of IT, but financial executives are increasingly finding they, too, are expected to exhibit technological leadership. From selecting financial systems to managing financial reporting and e-commerce transactions, technology is woven throughout the responsibilities of a financial leader. If you don’t feel you possess a working knowledge of technology, you can improve your technological understanding by partnering with your IT counterpart.
- Listening Skills: All too often, leaders are thought of as talkers. While it’s true that leaders spend a fair amount of their time explaining their vision and laying out strategic plans, outstanding leaders understand the importance of listening as well. Savvy leaders recognize that much more can be gained by opening up the floor and listening intently to what others have to say. From other members of the leadership team to middle managers to front line workers, you’ll find that smart ideas and keen insights come from all corners of the organization. It’s your job to let them influence your decision-making.
- Change Management: Change management is often looked upon as the domain of human resources, frequently working in conjunction with the CEO. The role of the company’s financial executives is often downplayed. In reality, finance executives are uniquely suited to measuring the results of change management initiatives.
If you are serious about becoming an effective financial leader, you must take the time to strengthen your skills in these key areas. Read, observe, and come up with a plan for your career development. Develop strategic cross-functional relationships and look to learn from others. You just may find yourself elevated from “chief bean-counter” to strategic executive.
Daley and Associates LLC is a boutique executive search and contract staffing firm dedicated to matching the right talent with the right opportunity. Daley consultants are experts in determining their clients’ needs and provide lasting placements that benefit employer and employee.
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