by Lisa Simpson, CPA, CGMA, Associate Director – Firm Services and Heather O’Connor, Senior Manager – Communications
Surprise! You’ve been encouraged to jump off a 45-foot platform to build your leadership skills. If you’re brave enough to climb the iron stakes drilled into a tall pine, your leader peers will lower you to safety using a system of ropes as you leap toward the ground. From the moment you take your first step up the iron stakes, you realize how many people are cheering you on, literally and figuratively supporting and nudging you up.
The whole experience is meant to be a metaphor for making the courageous climb up the corporate ladder, giving you a new perspective on your abilities and your need to rely on others for assistance.
Welcome to the new world of leadership development!
Building and supporting good leadership is essential for the survival and growth of any organization or firm. Effective leaders must do more than just assign tasks, it is important that they inspire and motivate their teams and set the example through their actions and words.
Types of leadership development
Leadership development programs have evolved over the last 20 years, emphasizing different elements of business needed to help leaders grow and learn. The following are just three examples:
1) Creative leadership:
Tapping creativity is just one way to help leaders expand their thinking. Leaders take advantage of development in this area to reimagine the future, encourage innovation, better adapt to change, strengthen a strategic mindset and even understand brand engagement among staff and customers. Look for options that encourage creativity through producing something (e.g., artwork, models, inventions, products, written content), creative problem solving or research into successful creative leaders.
2) Servant leadership:
Leaders need to connect to staff and peers on a new level to strengthen relationships and build trust. Servant leaders do this by putting staff needs before their own. Explore servant leadership through volunteering with a nonprofit organization, supporting your local school district’s after-school program or building your interpersonal skills (see Toastmasters or even programs like equine coaching—i.e., mentoring and coaching others through horses).
3) Mental/physical toughness leadership:
Feeling comfortable in your own skin as a leader may be as simple as taking on or supporting others as they pursue a physical challenge. We’ve known leaders who’ve gone as far as skydiving to build confidence and test perceptions. Some safer options include:
- Outdoor leadership programs such as Outward Bound or facilitated ropes courses, often available through your local parks and recreation centers. These can challenge you to get comfortable in a new environment.
- The mental gymnastics needed to get out of an escape room can give you and your colleagues a different kind of leadership workout.
- Helping others as they test their mettle through a toughness challenge. Consider volunteering for the Special Olympics, a local youth sports league or participating in a mud run/obstacle course competition with colleagues.
Accounting leadership development
If you’re looking for opportunities to grow as a leader in the accounting profession, there are numerous options:
- The AICPA Leadership Academy exposes the next generation of CPAs to a strong ethic of leadership and service, providing them with strategies to become leaders within their organizations, communities and the CPA profession. Also stayed tuned to CGMA Events for the applications to open up for the next round of the Global GGMA Leadership Academy.
- The Women’s Global Leadership Summit is designed to help women build skills in business development, mentoring, networking and client services.
- The Private Companies Practice Section Firm inMotion e-Toolkit provides leadership and staff development resources you can customize for any CPA practice.
- The AICPA’s Online Mentoring Program offers virtual mentor/mentee relationships with compatible professionals.
Leadership development can be one of the most important investments you can make to remain sustainable: it builds trust, encourages communication and increases collaboration. Effective leadership development results in happier, more engaged leaders, which leads to a more positive work environment and overall company success.