I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Northwestern Ohio in June 2014. The very next week, I started my first full-time accounting job as controller for a medium-sized, family-run excavation company with annual sales of $25 million. Though I learned a lot in the short time I was with the company, complacency began to set in since I had mastered my responsibilities and stopped growing. So in August 2015, when I was presented with the opportunity to work for Marathon Petroleum Corporation, a Fortune 50 company, I chose to pursue this new path. Marathon Petroleum Corporation is the fourth-largest transportation fuels refiner in the nation, and the largest in the Midwest. The company has been a major player in the oil industry for a very long time. The opportunities and career advancement possibilities were too great to ignore. It was an immense change and helped me develop my leadership qualities.
Whereas I had once worried as a student about assignments, exams, and my plans for the weekend, my concerns suddenly escalated to receivables, payables, and the overall financial well-being of a large, leading company. I quickly gained one key leadership trait: accountability.
By definition, accountability is an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for our actions. In the business world, individuals must be held accountable for their actions and decisions. Business leaders are responsible for every entry recorded, every adjustment created, every statement prepared, and every decision made. A leader who is reckless with any of these responsibilities is a leader that no one wants to follow.
Any job transition will be difficult. You will doubt yourself and wonder if you made the right choice. Throughout the entire process, you have to have confidence in yourself and in the decisions you make. I believe that confidence is one of the key requirements of being a leader. Leaders must believe in themselves in order for others to also believe in them. In my previous position as a controller, I was tasked with organizing our accounting records and providing important information to the owners in a timely fashion so that they could make decisions regarding the company.
When I left the company, the owners complimented me on how well the accounting records were kept and how they felt they had access to critical financial information when needed. This boosted my confidence as a leader. Still, when I made the decision to accept the new job offer, I often wondered whether I was making a smart decision. Leaving a familiar situation for an unknown one was intimidating, but I was determined to have confidence in my decision and to trust that I could be successful in anything I pursue. I have now been in my current position for nearly nine months and am already transitioning to a new role within the company. I truly believe there is a link between confidence and success.
My experience has consistently rewarded me for taking initiative and responding flexibly to changing situations. Taking the leap and accepting the job offer took initiative, and the change required me to be flexible. Leaders need to be able to take action and make key decisions when necessary. They also need to be confident with their choices in order for others to support them. Our economy is very dynamic; laws, regulations, and standards are always changing. Leaders need to learn how to respond successfully to all the different situations they will face in their everyday lives. People will look to you as a leader for guidance, so decisive action when responding to change is imperative. In my previous job, I was tasked with choosing a new accounting system to implement. I immediately started researching accounting software designed for construction businesses and scheduling demos. If I had procrastinated, problems could have arisen with our old system and we wouldn’t have had a backup plan in place. Taking initiative was crucial in this situation.
Your career path will take you many different directions throughout your life. You will be exposed to change. That’s inevitable. Chances are, you’ll be afraid. It’s normal to fear change; most people do. But fearing change to the point of avoidance can harm your growth as a professional. Change fosters learning and forces you to adapt. Those who learn to adapt become successful because the business environment is constantly evolving. If you are experiencing change in your career, use it as a tool to help you mature as an individual and as a leader. You must be accountable, have confidence, take the initiative, and remain flexible. As you develop these traits, your ability as a business leader will increase.
Between new technologies, government regulations, competition, and new markets, the world economy is in constant flux. There will be times of uncertainty during your career. For this reason, being an adaptive leader and learning how to react to and handle change is critical.
FOUR KEY TRAITS
Accountability: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for your actions
Confidence: a feeling of self-assurance arising from your appreciation of your own abilities and qualities
Initiative: the ability to assess situations and act or take charge before others
Flexibility: willingness and/or ability to change or compromise
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/programs_events/ima_leadership_academy.