Finance Managers - Leave your office to lead your business

Finance professionals need to develop leadership and engagement skills to support the modern business environment


I was talking to a CFO the other day. He mentioned that one of the major challenges in his career had been his transition from good finance manager to becoming the business leader that a CFO needs to be. He identified that his strong financial skills counted for little when the emphasis of his role changed to one that needed to be outward rather than inward looking. It took him time and significant effort to develop the right leadership skills to be effective in the CFO role. He had to learn “on the job” and recognised that this was not ideal.

In the modern world, as the rate and impact of change on business increases, organisations have to continually develop or risk significant negative impact. Every part of business is affected. More dynamic operational environments are being built that include complex value chains and evolving partner plans which need integrating and managing to deliver service cost effectively. Finance is a key component for successful management and development of this environment.

At the same time continuous innovation within an enterprise is critical, and businesses are demanding that finance works alongside their executive team to become champions for innovation to deliver extra value to the business. Finance managers need to encourage and enable innovation, and be able to manage the value delivered, by working collaboratively with cross functional teams at the forefront of change.

Financial skills give finance professionals the right to be at the table; leadership skills enable them to drive the conversation.

Successful CFOs have developed the skills to work across disciplines and bring clarity to complex operational environments. They understand and communicate with many diverse areas both within and outside the organisation, encouraging and empowering individuals, whilst providing them with the information to deliver successfully. They engage with different viewpoints to Finance, seeking to understand, and communicate effectively to agree a way forward. They understand and drive risk taking, and knowledge capture, to enable the continual evolution of service.

In the modern world a successful CFO needs to lead a team of finance professionals who guide and coach their colleagues across the business to enable successful delivery in line with the corporate mission, whilst working ethically to uphold financial stability. They need to enable multi-disciplined teams to deliver a fast pace of change.

This requires real time insight, and leadership skills that CFOs have had to develop in the past, through trial and error. Finance professionals must now quickly develop their leadership and engagement skills to support this modern business environment. They can lead these teams, but only if they have the personal and leadership skills to make them credible.

Organisations need to put in place a programme to develop these capabilities, and hence enable optimal operation. If not individuals will have to learn as they go and risk a period of sub-optimal business performance.

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“Good summary of the challenge for finance experts to develop the leadership skills to enable business AND PERSONAL  success”  - Roger Davis, Chairman - Sainsbury's Bank