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Backwards and forwards

It’s fascinating to read how, over the years, FDs have wrestled with their backward-looking, bean-counting, asset-checking duties with their more forward-looking, analysing, decision-making responsibilities. The single characteristic that FDs regard as essential for them to be the best is leadership, ranked even more highly than strategic thinking (accuracy comes last).

Leadership comes in many guises. Sure, people such as Margaret Thatcher or Richard Branson or Attila the Hun score highly in “most admired leader” surveys, but that’s not always very enlightening. Leadership comes from being independent, doing what ought to be done and through sheer force of example as much as oratory inspiring others to take part in the effort. Our selected interviews demonstrate many examples of leadership. Our article on the scandal at Conrad Black’s Hollinger International demonstrates a total leadership void on the part of the audit committee.

A topical example: part of the purpose behind the proposed merger of the ICAEW, CIMA and CIPFA is to enable a super-institute to take a leading role in the international arena in which accountancy issues now play out. (Whether the various councils have demonstrated adequate leadership to their members who will soon be asked to vote on the issue is another matter.)

The poor chap on the cover of this month’s issue is about to get a rude awakening from the man who is about to burst his party balloon – but his reaction probably won’t demonstrate much leadership. How you respond to and anticipate events is as good a demonstration of FD leadership skill as anything else. It’s not necessary to be a politician, a flamboyant entrepreneur or even a terrifying warrior.

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