3 ways CFO’s can develop stronger leadership skills

The most effective CFOs prioritise developing their leadership capability. In my work as an Organisational Psychologist, I know the stereotype many CFOs face is they are bad with people and good with numbers.

While this is true in some cases, for those that challenge themselves to be better leaders, they always achieve results. In fact, the very best CFO I know isn’t a people person, indeed they are excellent with numbers, but they are respected by their team through the trust they build, the feedback they provide and the clarity with which they communicate. There are no short-term strategies to become a formidable CFO with excellent leadership skills. Just as your wealth compounds and accelerates over time, the effort you put into developing your talents, aligning with your purpose, and managing your emotions will pay handsome dividends long term.

Knowing where to invest your time is half the battle, and here are some proven ways to maximise your return.

  • Knowing and focussing on your strengths

According to Gallup, a global leader in strengths-based development and engagement, employees that focus on developing their talents are 8% more productive and 15% less likely to quit their jobs. Other benefits are improved engagement, satisfaction, and wellbeing. Deep down, we all have our own quirks and preferences that stem from our personalities. When we stop trying to ‘fit’ a certain mould and accept who we are, we can focus on developing our talents. The investment we make in our talents should form 95% of our focus, the other 5% is understanding our potential. As a first step, try completing a strengths assessment like Gallup’s Cliftonstrengths but don’t stop there. The real benefit will come from discussing how your strengths help or hinder you, seeking feedback from the people who know you best and taking the time to reflect on how you can intentionally focus on utilising your strengths every day.

  • Articulating and aligning with your purpose

In their article, Knowles Hunsaker and Grove state that getting your purpose right should be one of your most pressing decisions. They speak of the alignment between the value proposition of the organisation and the stated purpose of the business. I’d like to suggest that enabling every employee to connect more deeply to their own purpose completes the chain of alignment and creates a fully connected, engaged and powerful workforce to lead with purpose. Articulating and aligning with your purpose is some of the most important work you can do in life. If you struggle to go deep on this exercise, rather than get caught up in the words or how it sounds, focus on how it makes you feel. If you don’t feel anything, keep at it. Even when you can articulate your purpose, it’s a constant process of calibration to ensure you remain aligned with it.

  • Understanding and managing your emotions

Daniel Goleman first popularised the term emotional intelligence in 2006 when he published his book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. Emotions are powerful, unpredictable, irrational and for many people, a complete mystery. What Daniel Goleman demonstrated is, those that who are better at understanding, utilising, facilitating and regulating their emotions tend to be more successful. In fact, CFOs that have high EQ consistently outperform those with low EQ. In my experience working with hundreds of leaders, including CFOs, learning how to regulate emotions is the most challenging when aiming to achieve self-mastery. If you can’t regulate your emotions, we can’t see your strengths and we struggle to identify your purpose, all we experience is emotion. The single most powerful tool you have at your disposal to regulate your emotions is to focus on your breathing. When everything seems out of control, you can always bring your attention back to your breath. This doesn’t have to be in formal meditation. It can be while you are exercising, doing housework, shopping, or even sitting in a boardroom.

If you want to be an effective CFO you owe it to yourself and everybody else in your life to achieve self-mastery. This is not a short course you do online or even a milestone you break through, it is a relentless commitment to self-development that will pay dividends proportionate to the effort you apply. Knowing your strengths and investing in them, aligning to your purpose, and regulating your emotions are critical focus areas to becoming a great leader. If you want your leadership to create a legacy, do the work, invest where it matters, and watch your leadership wealth grow.

About the Author:

Joe Hart is an Organisational Psychologist and founder of True Perspective; A leadership development practice. He is a highly experienced executive coach, speaker, trainer, and facilitator who helps leaders to drive honest conversations, build trust and create meaningful change. He is also the author of True Perspective (Hambone Publishing $27.99).

Find out more: www.joehart.com.au