Leadership / Management | Legislative / Regulatory

Leadership ain’t what it used to be … thank God

Boat The more things change, the more they ... well, change some more.

That's no surprise to you CPAs out there. Things have been changing pretty drastically recently, haven't they?

Let's run down the list. In the last decade alone, we've seen Enron and the fall of Arthur Anderson; the Sarbanes-Oxley Act; the rise of the PCAOB; the push toward IFRS; questions about private company reporting standards; the promise of XBRL; a housing boom and bust; a recession; finance reform, health care reform and the resulting tidal wave of new rules and regulations; a slew of new tax issues like preparer registration, Form 1099 rules, and new employment tax issues that will increase the tax burden on sub-S corporations.

Add to that peripheral issues like social media and groundbreaking advances in technology and you have a blizzard of complexity that impacts every corner of the profession -- and all of corporate America as well.

Tom Hood and I spent some time talking about this recently, and in the process we realized something: Amid all this change, the very nature of leadership has changed. Here's how Tom explained it to me:

Back in the day, leading was simple. Notice I didn't say "easy." It's never been easy. But the process was pretty simple: Leaders determined their organizations' direction and told their teams how to get there.

That doesn't work anymore. Amid this chaos, leaders need to be quick, nimble and -- perhaps above all -- collaborative. No one person can solve all of these issues alone. It's a bit cliche, but in this complex environment, "we" are definitely smarter than "me."

Barking orders no longer works -- as if it ever did. Modern leadership is all about empowerment. With so much change impacting all corners of our businesses, leaders must empower their people to act on their own -- to make small, individual corrections at a moment's notice to keep the ship on course. Waiting for direction from on high won't do.

Today, great leaders empower their people to do their jobs, and those jobs might be fantastically different and seemingly incoherent. In the end, though, taken together, they move you smoothly toward your goal.

Leadership guru Emmanuel Gobillot understands this perhaps better than anyone. He believes modern leadership is all about building trust. And how do you build trust? "By making your people feel stronger and more capable," Emmanuel says.

The ability to empower, inspire, collaborate -- all great leaders have had that set of skills. But never before have those skills been more important, more fundamentally requisite, than they are today.

It's amazing, when you think about it -- that these modern-day regulatory changes could have changed something as fundamental as leadership itself. Amazing, and perhaps inevitable.

Insights to Action: Skill sets for today's leaders
Tom and Gretchen Pisano have developed a system called "Insights to Action" based on the following premise: To keep pace with your industry and excel as a leader, you need to learn at a rate that's greater than or equal to the rate of change. Not only must you be constantly learning new skills, but you must hone your ability to think both conceptually and sequentially, in the abstract and in the concrete.

Take my word for it: This system will change your outlook. Get complete details about Insights to Action here.


Bill Sheridan