The Quickest Way for CFOs to Become Better Leaders

By Don Mal. Unless they’re particularly reclusive or brand-new to the organization, it shouldn’t be difficult for most employees in a company to know who the CFO is. What can be challenging though, is identifying the next-generation CFOs.

Recently consulting firm The Hackett Group released a report, The CFO Agenda, which profiled a number of financial leaders to identify their biggest priorities. This included some things you might expect, like planning a financial roadmap, reengineering processes and installing BI or ERP tools. The No. 1 priority, however, was improving financial leadership skills and business acumen.

That may seem odd at first. If you’ve made it to the CFO role, aren’t you already well-equipped as a leader? In reality, though, great leaders never stop learning. They also know it’s not just good enough to do their own jobs well. They need to inculcate a sense of mission to their team and keep succession planning always in mind. The Hackett Group pointed to this in the report’s conclusion.

“Today, it is widely understood that leadership skills aren’t just for people with senior management titles,” it said. “As finance employee’s partner with the business, they must demonstrate leadership through persuasion and motivation, planning and organizing, taking initiative and making appropriate decisions.”

A Shift in Attitude

Those high-level recommendations may leave some CFOs wondering where to begin. One suggestion is by walking the walk – demonstrating an openness to new ideas and taking well-calculated risks that could benefit the business. There’s some evidence this is starting to happen already.

A much different kind of survey of financial executives profiled on iTWire, for instance, showed that CFOs are becoming much more comfortable adopting things like cloud computing where it makes sense. You could say the challenges they face demands it:

“CFOs want more insights into their business than simply broad stroke profit and loss numbers. Tools that provide greater understanding of nuanced performance metrics such as business unit performance, customer lifetime value, and churn will also be part of the CFO’s top technological investments over the next 18 months.”

Think of it this way: only by taking a step into technology that offers greater analytical capability will CFOs really understand their business. Only then can they plan, organize, persuade and motivate. Only then can they show the people they work with what real leadership looks like.

*This article was originally published on the Vena Voice.

DonMal