Leadership is often thought of as only for the service and C-suite levels in the accounting profession. However, I see leadership going well beyond these levels over the next decade for many reasons.
This is an accelerated extension of leadership and what has occurred at leading firms for over a decade.
Professionally, we are experiencing a talent shortage, inflation and disruptive/enabling technology, including cloud computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, blockchain, digital wallets and mobile connectivity, just to name a few. Additionally, our lives are being impacted by genome editing and sequencing, living therapies, 3D printing, battery technology, autonomous mobility and space exploration.
If this doesn’t get your attention, I don’t know what will. The power comes from the convergence of these technologies working together.
Whether you view this as disruption or enablement is critical to your future success. You have choices: status quo or transformation. This is well beyond incremental change or optimization for efficiency.
Let’s simplify and focus on the platforms having the greatest impact on the accounting profession over the remaining eight years of this decade.
Platforms allow you to scale, while shortcuts (tools) allow you to innovate. Software provides structure and enters the picture between innovation and scaling stages. Good examples are digital workflow and project management solutions with built-in intelligence to automate standard processes. For this to happen, firms must standardize processes and develop their digital platform.
In my opinion, the technologies most important to firms today are artificial intelligence, robotics, predictive and prescriptive data, and blockchain. Couple these platforms with longevity, and the profession must think differently to sustain success and remain relevant. This requires new skill sets, toolsets and mindsets. Most importantly, it requires a new business model, which brings us to the topic of leadership at all levels.
Learning for leaders
Leaders chase vision while managers chase goals. In 1982, I read the book “Megatrends” by John Naisbitt and purchased my first IBM PC, dot matrix printer and software. I spent many late nights learning VisiCalc, a predecessor to Excel, and building tools that were not possible or affordable on our firm’s IBM minicomputer.
One of the first models I built was a spreadsheet predicting multiple federal and state income tax scenarios, a shortcut showing instant results. I was told the PC was a “Tinkertoy” by those who were using mini and mainframe computers, and that networks (distributed computing) had no value.
My purpose and passion have always been some version of inspiring and guiding the accounting profession and its clients into forward-looking “results leaders” to sustain success and be future-ready.
At the time, I didn’t know about massively transformative purposes as defined by Peter Diamandis. But I knew it was essential to have a vision and a plan that focused on priority initiatives, and to hold myself accountable. I didn’t realize that it would take decades and a collaborative team to reach the goal.
The following guidelines have benefited many leaders in our profession. Following these guidelines can accelerate the process.
1. Join a community with geographic reach beyond your local market. I was fortunate to gain insight, access to expertise, and strategic relationships. Some of the most important were Strategic Coach, the American Institute of CPAs, and Abundance 360.
2. Personal coaching goes beyond mentoring. Personally, Steve Blundell, Larry Wolf, Dan Sullivan and Peter Diamandis have been impactful and inspirational.
3. You need a unique-ability team to scale and grow. Rugged individualists can’t go as far as unique-ability teams. Kathy Kolbe and the Kolbe A Index have been life-changing in discovering my unique abilities and learning how to develop unique-ability teams.
4. Communicate and network. Metcalf’s law states that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system. We started the Boomer Circles in 1999 with firm management and technology. We’ve since expanded into eight additional areas of firm leadership.
5. Passion beyond the profit motive is critical. A firm that posts great year-end results doesn’t automatically earn the title of being a great firm.
6. A life-long learner goes beyond the profession’s CPE requirements. As people advance in their careers, the issues become more behavioral and less technical.
7. Failure is part of innovation. Fail fast and view failure as a learning experience.
While these guidelines were beneficial to me, each person has unique abilities, and the timing of life events is not always predictable.
What is predictable is that leadership requires hard work, balance and time off to explore, access to resources, accountability, and an abundance, rather than a scarcity, mindset.
Most accountants were trained to think incrementally, rather than exponentially. A good question to ask yourself is, “How could we improve _______ 10X?” You fill in the blank, then brainstorm. You will be surprised at the results. Bring your best clients and team members into the discussion.
The following illustration can act as an example to start your thinking and get into action. Remember, good things only happen when you are in motion — start now and avoid procrastination.
1. Invest in yourself and others.
2. Identify your unique abilities.
3. Define your exponential vision. What do you want to be, do, have, experience and create in the next five to 10 years?
4. Develop a one-page game plan or roadmap.
5. Enroll in a leadership development program. This is a journey, not an event.
6. Seek coaching that will hold you accountable by providing honest and timely feedback.
7. Join a community where you have access to expertise and can develop peer relationships.
8. Hold yourself accountable every quarter.
9. Read. Blogs, podcasts and videos are all readily available.
10. Allocate your time wisely.
Think — plan — grow!