Great leaders have many qualities in common: They are strong communicators, adaptable, decisive and committed to learning. According to recent research by Robert Half, half of all management candidates are lacking the required leadership skills.
It is clear that strengthening your leadership skills can help you move toward a position of even greater responsibility in the accounting and finance field.
Here are eight steps to help you start enhancing your leadership skills today:
1. Look to role models
Start by identifying leadership traits your company values. Observe other company leaders you admire to evaluate their leadership styles.
For example, how do they interact with employees? Are they collaborative, including employees in decision-making? Are they heavier on the guidance, giving specific directions? Or do they practice a more hands-off type of leadership, allowing staff room to make decisions? Identifying common traits among current managers also allows you to identify possible leadership gaps in your organisation.
2. Find, or be, a mentor
Great leaders don’t fly solo. Even as you reach the top of the profession, mentors can help you gain perspective, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and narrow your focus.
However, you shouldn’t expect a mentor to find you. Identifying the right mentor and asking him or her to work with you requires some planning and possibly stepping outside of your comfort zone.
You can learn additional lessons, and hone your leadership skills, by being a great mentor yourself.
3. Develop your soft skills
Non-technical skills, also commonly referred to as soft skills, including communication, adaptability and decisiveness, are pivotal for leaders. Focusing on your communication abilities, both verbal and written, will help you better convey your vision to others. With the rise of social media and other tech developments, good leaders also need to be constantly tweaking their techniques. Staying ahead of emerging trends will help others in the company see you as a cutting-edge leader.
As soft skills continue gaining in importance for accounting and finance professionals, sharpening your abilities will provide another benefit: You'll be leading your team by example. You'll become who they model their behaviours after, reinforcing the work and professional development you expect from them.
4. Continue learning
Look for professional development opportunities, such as seminars, online classes and training programs to refine your leadership skills. Your company may be willing to pay enrolment fees, so be sure to ask if it offers reimbursement.
If your firm isn’t able to contribute to your education, consider paying for training yourself as a solid investment in your career. Even shorter forms of continuing education, such as webinars and podcasts, as well as books on business and leadership, can provide valuable information and outside perspectives you may not have considered previously.
5. Ask for feedback
Constructive criticism and advice from colleagues, managers and mentors will help you grow as a professional working in the field of accounting and finance and build stronger leadership skills. Often, an objective opinion will allow you to see a view of yourself you didn’t have before.
Colleagues and managers can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and encourage you to build on both. Relying on your contacts for this type of feedback will also help you build trust and credibility — both essential leadership characteristics.
6. Stay in the know
Staying abreast of current industry trends can help you be seen as a thought leader in your company and the finance profession. Identifying resources for reliable information is important for this type of growth. Look for popular leadership blogs, industry newsletters, and business and economic development sources to broaden your perspectives.
When you find relevant articles, share them with your colleagues. This has the dual benefit of establishing you as a resource for your contacts and highlighting your industry expertise.
7. Cultivate your network
Something else common to successful leaders is a wide network. You can start expanding your base of contacts by broadening your horizons within your own company.
Don’t overlook the value of social media as you work to build your connections, both inside and outside your organisation, while also keeping in mind the value of in-person networking activities. Whether face-to-face or virtual, cultivate relationships to ensure your network grows not only wide, but deep as well.
Remember that not every leadership style is going to be the same. Use the tips here to develop your own unique approach.