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The 5 Biggest Mistakes That Are Stopping You From Becoming a
Great Finance and Accounting Leader


Article taken from our leadership webinar with David Barret - View the recording here


Today’s financial executive faces new challenges, more responsibilities, and must work smarter with fewer resources. The role of the Finance Leader has evolved, and these important leaders now require a broadened perspective that goes far beyond finance to encompass enterprise-wide concerns.

Leadership is, most fundamentally, about changes. What leaders do is create the systems and organizations that managers need, and, eventually, elevate them up to a whole new level or change in some basic ways to take advantage of new opportunities.

So what are the biggest mistakes that you are making right now that are stopping you from becoming a great Senior Finance Leader?


MISTAKE 1 - You're Not Thinking Like a leader 

You need to be able to think like a leader, talk like a leader and walk like a leader or no one’s going to take you for a leader. So what are the key ingredients to thinking like a leader?

1. Understand the business (Although it sounds foundational, there are so many people out there who don’t get this. If you don’t understand the business, how can you work in it? Leaders are thinking about profit and loss, the bottom line, share price, goals of the organization, and the big overall picture. And through all of that the number one thing a leader needs to do is understand the business. One of the problems that many of us have as we aspire to a good senior leadership role is that we’ve been in one area of the organization for so long that it’s hard to get out of it.)

2. Be business savvy

3. Understand the CxO language

4. Understand strategic planning


MISTAKE 2 - You're Not Communicating Like a Leader

Before you can communicate like a leader, you must first understand the Science of Communication, which comes in 3 parts.

Part 1 - Prepare how you'll communicate

  1. Identify Your Audience
  2. Clarify the goal
  3. Plan the delivery
  4. Anticipate reaction - if i was in the audience, what would I think, how would I react?

Part 2 - Deliver The Message

  1. Express your meaning with conviction and passion.
  2. Relate the message to your larger goals.
  3. Identify the action to be taken.
  4. Confirm the other person understands.

Part 3 - Receive the message

  1. Keep an open mind.
  2. Identify key points In the message.
  3. Value constructive feedback and use it to grow.
  4. Confirm your understanding.

Be a Great Presenter

If you're not then seek out some training, or perhaps take a course, or attend some toastmaster sessions. As a leader, you need to present a vision, and a strategic plan. Furthermore, you need to be able to address your employees and deliver the good and the bad news, and to tell them what's going on within the organization.

Write well

Poor written communication skills, and poor grammar or style is a major detriment to you becoming a great leader. 

Understand scalability

We've all done it before. We talk too much, we write too much, and we go into far more detail than we need to. We overkill our point. We try and do too much with the time we've been given. As a leader, you need to scale down your message. Go back  to the science of communication, and know your audience and know how your message needs to be scaled back.

Run great meetings

Does the meeting have an effective objective from the beginning and is it revealed clearly at the end. Did you meet the set objectives? What are the action items and take aways? Start your next meeting with a review of your action items and move forward.


MISTAKE 3 - You Don't Know Your Leadership Style

Are you an Authoritarian or autocratic Leader? Perhaps you are Participative or demographic? Or Delegating or free rein?

Is your leadership style going to fit the particular situation, department or organization you are moving in to. Don't get yourself into a problem where your leadership style is not going to fit into the type of work you are being asked to do. Perhaps you can change or become another style? Can you go from Autocratic to Delegating, or Participative to Free rein. Can you move about? The answer is usually yes, but often comes with great difficult. If you want to try and change your given DNA, then you need to make a real conscious effort to change every day. Ultimately, you may not need to change completely but rather learn to adapt to different situations and settings. 

However you won't know how to do any of this unless you recognize and understand what type of leader you are.


MISTAKE 4 - You Have Not Yet Learnt How To Sell

To make this point clear, we are not suggesting you learn sales, and mastering the close, but rather suggesting that as a finance leader, you need to learn how to sell (ideas, your position and title and organization) and furthermore you need to become a corporate ambassador of your company and of your brand. You need to know and are expected to know the mission and vision of the business and talk the talk in any environment. Learn to have open dialogue with others and identify opportunities as and when they arise.


MISTAKE 5 - You Aren't Thinking Big Picture

Of all things, leaders know how to see the big picture. They need to understand how to get out of the weeds and see the mountains. They need to be able to anticipate needs, changes and opportunities. They have the ability to see beyond individual business units and see a much bigger piece of the puzzle, and not only the big picture but how the overall organization and it's different business units fit into the overall marketplace.


Closing Thoughts - Act Like A Leader, Before You Are One

"If you want to become a leader don't wait for the fancy title or the corner office. You can begin to act, think, and communicate like a leader long before that promotion. Even if you are still several levels down and someone else's calling all the shots, there are numerous ways to demonstrate your potential and carve your path to the role you want." Harvard Business Review Fall, 2014

Ways to act like a leader before you are one:

  1. Knock your responsibilities out of the park - do the very best you can.
  2. Help your boss succeed
  3. Seize leadership opportunities no matter how small - lead something, find some initiatives
  4. Don't be a jerk
  5. Find mentors and role models
  6. Build relationships

How can we help? Please let us know how we can support you or your business?