Every workplace has at least one great leader. It is that person you turn to when you are unsure, who seems to set the perfect example and the person who is the lynchpin of the entire operation. Leadership is a quality that is hard to pin down. It is elusive for an excellent reason - it is based on personal qualities that few people have.
It is certainly possible to develop leadership skills if you know what they are. Choosing an employee who already displays these traits is the Holy Grail; however, an understanding of the development of leadership qualities mean you can show them yourself and help others to develop them too.
We start with this one purposely. As an employer, you must choose people in leadership roles that display the ethical characteristics you want for your entire business. This means that a good leader needs to have a solid moral compass and the ability to clearly show their ability to think about the ongoing effects of their behaviour and the people around them.
A leader will turn down business from an unethical client, will refuse to work with an untrustworthy colleague and will put trust at the top of their priority list. They must be ethical in the way they approach every decision and be willing to stand up for their personal and business beliefs. Your other staff members will look to this person for direction on difficult choices and they need to have impeccable credentials.
A clear understanding of the firm's direction is one of the most important factors for the top leaders. A leader will see the big picture and have an intuitive understanding of the strategy required to achieve business goals. Their abilities need to be beyond reproach, or they must understand the importance of delegation to reach business goals. This organisational skill is an essential factor when it comes to accountancy leaders.
This strategic thinking may sometimes mean that difficult decisions will need to be made, and an understanding of the effect of the change on the workforce will be part and parcel of this leadership skill.
Good strategic thinking will lead to growth and therefore improved profit. Your leaders need to have this skill in spades, not just for your own business, but for your clients too.
Another essential quality of being a leader is to, well... lead. The eventual role of anyone who has made it to director level and above in any company should always offer a mentorship role to more junior staff. This is often overlooked in terms of its importance, but the best leaders should pass on their skill and knowledge. The rapport within the team will empower all workers, and this top-down approach can be hugely motivating.
A true leader will have already gone through the process of identifying their weaknesses and working on improvement. This valuable insight should be passed on to junior staff as part of the management and mentoring role. Most importantly, a good mentor and leader will show that they are willing to continue working on their failings. All good leaders should want to see their team reach their personal goals, and their role is to facilitate this as much as possible.
A note on diversity
The financial sector is currently working to improve women and black and ethnic minority employees in leadership roles. The importance of this cannot be underestimated. People naturally look to people like themselves when they seek leadership. Anyone who cannot see someone who represents them within the workforce may feel like they have no business attempting to reach those levels.
When choosing the next leaders in your business, remember to question if your leaders fairly represent the entire workforce. A certain amount of fair and judicial promotion or encouragement can ensure a more balanced look to your upper leadership roles, and this can have a positive effect on your workforce and the way your clients perceive you.
Leadership comes from the top and can be created through careful employee choices. Bear in mind the leadership qualities above when choosing your next management level employee, and you might improve your entire firm as a result.