I recently attended a CIMA branch meeting where there was a presentation on psychometric testing and its use in business. It became evident during the evening from the questions from the audience of accountants, that there was a higher value placed on technical knowledge rather than leadership and general management skills. In addition, the audiences lack of understanding of what the key skills and behaviours used in leadership are and how they are needed, came through.
So, why should you focus on leadership soft skills to ensure you do a good job or develop your career? This is certainly something I didn’t understand for myself for quite a few years early into my career as an accountant in business. What I realise now, is that leadership skills and behaviours are fundamental to success. Success not only in being able to take on more senior roles, but also for just getting the value delivered from the great technical skills and knowledge that I took so long to train and acquire.
Imagine the scenario where an accountant working in business identifies a key cost trend that if not addressed, will threaten to escalate and impact the profitability of the business. Without well developed leadership skills, the accountant is unable to communicate clearly the issue. They are unable to identify who the right people are to take action. They won’t follow up with the key managers to ensure that it’s prioritised. They won’t lead the project team to change systems and processes to secure the cost risk for the future. They will not think to communicate the best practice process or what signals to look out for in the future. Without these steps being addressed fully, the knowledge identified in the first place will not have been successfully leveraged within the business.
Increasingly, the professional Accountancy bodies are recognising the importance of equipping finance professionals with the leadership skills that will help them deliver added value into their organisations. All members are encouraged to build leadership skills into their CPD, as well as their knowledge about the latest technical standards.
I will leave you with one question, how aware are you of your leadership skills, how you deploy them and how much you may need to develop them further?