Are you an accountant leading a team and in need of developing the right skill sets? Or are you new to accounting and looking forward to becoming a leader in the future? Being a successful accountant requires a range of skills, and if you have a natural tendency toward leadership, you may want to find ways to highlight and utilize leadership skills during your career.
Are Accountants Natural Leaders?
As an accountant, you’re used to working with lots of numbers and you probably have the tendency to tell it like it is, which often equates to speaking truth to power. Braving up to speak up to your clients and giving your honest, timely advice is a characteristic of good leaders. You’re trained to be naturally curious and provide reasons why: You explain why certain numbers don’t make sense, why certain entries aren’t in the monthly income statement, and why labour costs are constantly increasing.
The ability to transition back and forth depending on various company situations also makes accountants great leaders. You have to increase or reduce expenditure and balance your books depending on how your firm or client’s company performs within a specified fiscal period. Your ability to delve into details and look at the bigger picture to predict what may happen in the future makes you a great leader.
Work on Your Soft Skills
As an accountant, you need more than just the right credentials and knowledge of how to crunch numbers. You also need soft skills in accounting, which are essential when applying for jobs or trying to land clients. Soft skills are personal attributes that help you interact effectively with colleagues, clients, and other stakeholders. They include a variety of intangible concepts, such as confidence, adaptability, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, and positive work ethic. If you want to be a great leader in the accounting industry, you need to learn the importance of a firm handshake, the ability to make eye contact, and strong communication skills.
How to Identify the Soft Skills You Have and Which Ones You Need
Consider talking with friends, professors, coworkers, and anyone else who works closely with you. Ask them to give you honest feedback about any soft skills you need improvement in.
Tips for Improving Your Soft Skills as an Accountant
Consider practicing to improve your communication skills. If you’re interviewing for jobs or setting up meetings with clients, ask your friends or colleagues to help you prepare. Meetings and mock interviews are great ways to practice. You might also read books or sign up for classes and seminars. Look for leadership and management courses in your area, and if you live in a small community without a lot of options, consider taking courses online or travelling to conventions.
Focus Your Career on Leadership
Explore leading clients to build your leadership skills in accounting. You may consider applying for in-house leadership positions with a prominent accounting firm or with a business that has a large accounting department. Some top accounting jobs you can apply include accounting manager, chief accountant, and chief financial controller.
But what if you lack the necessary experience? If you want a leadership-level accounting position but you’re not quite there yet, bolster your resume with some volunteer opportunities in prominent organizations. You could join a nonprofit board, as they’re often looking for a numbers person to round out their team. Alternatively, consider volunteering to teach a class on small-business accounting or personal finance at a local community centre. In addition to serving as an outlet for your leadership skills, voluntary teaching can also be a great way to meet new clients and hone your public speaking skills.
Improve Your Technology Skills in Technology
Technology is rapidly reshaping the accounting industry and creating opportunities for accountants to offer new services. And as an accountant and a leader during this time of technological evolution, you need to develop the right skill sets by taking the following steps:
Understand Digital Technology
Software can complete many of the rote duties accountants perform. Because accounting software integrates so easily with other business technology, such as point-of-sale systems and tax software, less need exists for accountants to organize and classify data as it’s produced. You can make yourself indispensable in this industry if you understand digital technology and have the technical expertise to deal with large quantities of data.
Embrace Entrepreneurial and Culturally Diverse Thought
Baby boomers are retiring en masse, and millennials are fast becoming the de facto majority party in the workforce. This generation embraces starkly different ideals from its predecessors. Millennials tend to have an entrepreneurial mindset; make them feel like they’re running their own business within another business. This generation also prizes openness, communication, and diversity of thought. As a successful accounting leader, you need to promote diversity within your firm to attract the best talent from a modern crop of professions and get the most out of that talent.
Develop a Deeper Business Acumen
In the past, you could sustain a business by simply focusing on your clients’ books, ensuring everything is reconciled, keeping your clients in compliance with tax laws, and so forth. Now that technology is taking over, you may want to take a more holistic approach to servicing your clients and learning about all aspects of their business. The goal is to become a trusted advisor, someone the client calls ahead of any significant business decisions to solicit advice. Develop a broad business acumen – one that doesn’t myopically focus on number crunching – to make good judgments and quick decisions.
Leading Through Retirement
Leadership shouldn’t end when you start retirement. There are numerous ways to continue sharing your skills long after you stop working full time. In particular, you may want to teach accounting classes, offer mentoring to young accountants, or do part-time consulting for businesses. Effective consultants need a blend of knowledge and leadership skills in accounting to guide their clients in the right direction. And as an experienced leader, you’re better placed to guide your younger colleagues.
Accounting Leadership at a Glance
Leadership and professional success in accounting involves a lot more than the information you learned in your accounting classes. Develop your soft skills to interview with prospective employers, talk with colleagues and clients, and even manage your own employees. Be sure to keep your eye focused on the technology horizon and improve your technical intelligence. Also, ensure that you get clients to make statements on your leadership abilities: Ask clients to give positive reviews about your work when you analyse their numbers and help their companies grow.
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