One of the core principles of effective management holds true across almost any industry: If you expect your employees and direct reports to follow both the letter and the spirit of a given policy, you’ll need to start by policing your own behavior and making sure you’re walking the walk. Leadership by example can show your employees that the rule or guiding principle in question actually matters; it isn’t just an empty way to reinforce the status quo, but a stabilizing rule that supports the best interests of the company, its employees, its clients, and the larger world.
Leading by example is especially necessary in the field of accounting and financial management. Here are a few of the ways this industry relies on leaders who actually lead in practice, not just in principle.
1. Finance and accounting are not self-regulatory.
Official oversight is increasing in this industry with every passing generation, and the recent financial collapse and its aftermath have drawn further attention to the need for formal policies that govern responsible financial practices and enforce compliance. But the industry itself is not self-regulating. Food and beverage markets can only cut corners and produce low quality products for so long before consumers begin to push back, but financial markets don’t self-regulate as quickly or reliably.
2. Individual behavior is also difficult to monitor.
Accountants will never be replaced by machines, simply because their work requires a level of human intelligence and discernment that can’t be reproduced by any software app, no matter how sophisticated. So individual decisions made by junior and senior accountants should be guided by responsible and ethical managers who reward thorough attention to detail, meticulous task completion, and scrupulous decision making.
3. Experience matters.
Accounting and financial management are also experience-based professions in which practice, long term exposure, and the cultivation of insight and instinct can help improve decisions and outcomes. Novice accountants, consultants, and financial pros need leaders who have made similar decisions to the ones they face at any given moment. And these leaders should be able to share the lessons they’ve gained through the success and failures of the past.
For more on how financial and accounting managers can and should rely on the practice of leadership by example, turn to the financial staffing and business management experts at Cordia.