Build a Leadership VisionBy
An executive in Finance shares what it takes to lead with consistency and vision.
My role as VP of Finance transcends an executive position within my company. I also oversee the accounting department’s operations and work closely with the officers of the company to make strategic and informed business decisions. But the most important aspect of my position is leadership. As I continue to grow within my position, my leadership skills should develop as well.
Good leaders don’t take their positions for granted. Leaders have the opportunity to inspire and empower others and can make a difference in colleagues’ careers. Communicating expectations and objectives clearly is a key to successful leadership, and I have invested time in developing my team and promoting a culture of accountability. To achieve this, I’ve developed a personal leadership vision statement that I can use to hold myself accountable as the leader I expect and want to be.
My leadership vision statement is: To consistently lead with integrity, fairness, humility, and clear and honest communication. To mentor and develop my team, all the while creating a respectful, enjoyable, and professional working environment.
Most companies develop a vision statement describing their overall goals, purpose, and values as an organization. Vision statements answer the big question: What do we want to achieve today and continue into the future? I believe leaders should also create a personal vision statement listing the goals they expect for themselves. These goals should align with how they envision their leadership and what they expect to achieve as a leader.
Developing my vision statement wasn’t easy. I really had to think about who I wanted to be as a leader and what I wanted the employees I manage to take away from working with me. Lack of communication and accountability on all sides can cause a hostile working environment, which can lead to resentment. But clear communication in the form of open-ended questions is a great way to genuinely know what your employees need and want.
I’ve compiled a list of questions that I asked my team regarding the company and my leadership. These questions assisted in the creation of my vision statement and offered a general overview of the employees’ attitudes toward the company. I encouraged them to be honest and clarified that there would be no judgment or repercussions for their answers.
What makes our company’s culture unique? This question gave insight into how my employees view the company. It’s important to know if the employees view the culture in the same way the company does. If I see a disconnect there, it’s my job to identify it and bring the issue to my executive team’s attention so we can work on fixing it together.
How would you describe the general mood within our accounting department? I used the term “mood” because it’s a temporary state of mind or feeling; I wanted to make sure our department’s general mood is positive. If it isn’t, again, it’s my responsibility to try and figure out what I can do to enhance it.
Which, if any, processes within the accounting department should be removed or improved? Efficient processes are instrumental to a department’s success. This question let me know if the employees agree with the processes I’ve implemented. Since they run the day-to-day operations, they have a better understanding if a task should be improved or removed. If a process doesn’t work for the team, we can talk as a group about ways to develop a better process.
Are there any areas you feel you need the most assistance with? This was a personal developmental question that let me know if anyone feels like he or she is lacking or could improve in some areas. If so, I can then use that information to mentor and develop them accordingly.
Is there anything holding you back from accomplishing your job duties? This is an important question to ask your team because you may have an idea of what their job duties entail, but over time you can lose track of what they do on a daily basis. It’s good to check in and identify any outside factors that are hindering the completion of their tasks.
What inspires you to succeed every day? I love this question because inspiration comes in many different forms, and what one person values as success can be very different from the next person’s values. Distinct answers were given, and I really just use these answers as a general guide to understand my team better.
When are you the happiest at work? This was another question that allowed me to better understand my team. The answers were unsurprisingly very different. They also opened my eyes to know that sometimes as leaders we think we have to make grand gestures to show appreciation to our teams while, in actuality, many people really only need a pat on the back with a “thank you” to feel motivated and happy. Small, consistent gestures of appreciation can go a long way.
Is there anything I can do to lead better? This was the most important question I asked, and it really helped me in creating my leadership vision statement. My team admitted this was definitely the toughest question to answer. But as their boss, I explained the importance of my understanding the ways in which I can improve, just as I would explain their growth opportunities to them in an annual performance review. How other people perceive you can be a tough pill to swallow. As leaders we may think we don’t have any issues to work on, especially if the team continually does good work.
But it’s important to have people on the outside tell you honest truths about how you lead. There’s always room for improvement, and no leader is perfect, myself included. So if you’re hearing the same thing from different people, then you know that’s something you should probably look into and change. Humility is a key component of leadership, and hearing criticism can help you check back in.
IMA LEADERSHIP ACADEMY
The IMA® Leadership Academy provides leadership opportunities for all members. From leadership assessment to leadership courses offered in person as well as through WebEx to participation opportunities in mentoring, be it reverse or traditional, the IMA Leadership Academy can help you meet your leadership goals and improve your leadership skills. For more information, please visit the Leadership Academy website at www.imanet.org/career-resources/leadership-academy.