Strengthening your leadership abilities can help prepare and position you for roles that carry more responsibility and influence in your organization and industry than you may have today. But even if your aim isn’t to work at the management level or become a chief financial officer one day, well-honed business leadership skills can still benefit your accounting and finance career.
When you possess solid leadership skills, you can work more confidently in your job and be more effective as a team member on projects. Being a good leader in any capacity in the workplace allows you to earn even more trust and respect from your boss and colleagues. And when career opportunities arise that interest you, having a reputation as a good leader can help put you on the shortlist for consideration.
So, it can be well worth the time to invest in growing these abilities. Here are eight straightforward strategies that can help you jump-start the process of building and improving your business leadership skills:
1. Look to role models in your organization
The leadership style you develop will be unique to you, of course, but it also will be informed by traits and qualities you admire in other leaders.
As a starting point for your “research” on what makes a good leader, observe the people in your organization whose leadership skills you admire. How do they interact with employees? Are they collaborative, including employees in decision-making? Are they heavier on the guidance, giving specific directions? Or do they practice a more hands-off type of leadership, allowing staff room to make decisions?
Most importantly, what do you like about their management approach that you would like to emulate?
2. Expand your outlook
In addition to evaluating admirable qualities in your company’s leaders, consider the attributes of great leaders elsewhere in your industry. Also, look at those outside your industry or elsewhere in the business world to help you form a more complete picture of what you consider to be standout leadership abilities.
3. Find or become a mentor
You will probably learn quickly from observing other leaders that the great ones don’t fly solo. They have mentors, and they take time to share learnings and provide guidance to others.
Even if you reach the top of your profession, mentors are still valuable for helping you to understand what you are doing well as an emerging leader and where you can improve your leadership skills. However, you shouldn’t expect a mentor to find you. Identifying the right mentor and asking them to work with you requires some planning and possibly stepping outside of your comfort zone.
You can also hone your business leadership skills by becoming a great mentor yourself.
4. Strengthen your soft skills
Nontechnical skills, also commonly referred to as soft skills, including communication, adaptability and decisiveness, are pivotal for leaders. That has always been true, but it is even more so in a world of expanded remote work and digital collaboration. Focusing on your verbal, written and digital communication abilities will help you work together and convey your vision to others more effectively.
5. Embrace continuous learning
Look for professional development opportunities, such as seminars, online classes and training programs to refine your business leadership skills. Your company may be willing to provide financial support for some of this learning, so be sure to ask if that option exists.
If your firm can’t contribute to your education, consider paying for training yourself, as it will be a solid investment in your career. Even shorter forms of continuing education, such as webinars, podcasts, and books on business and leadership, can provide valuable insight and expose you to enlightening perspectives you may not have considered previously.
6. Proactively seek feedback
Constructive criticism and advice from colleagues, managers and mentors will help you grow as a professional and build stronger leadership skills. Often, an objective opinion will allow you to see a view of yourself you didn’t have before.
Colleagues and managers can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses and encourage you to build on both. Tapping your professional contacts for this type of feedback will also help you build trust and credibility, which are essential leadership characteristics. Learning how to ask for and receive feedback from others will also help you learn how to deliver constructive feedback as a leader.
7. Stay in the know (and share knowledge, too)
Staying informed about the latest business trends and adding your voice to discussions about those topics can help you be seen as a thought leader in your company and the finance profession.
Identifying resources for reliable information is essential for this type of growth. Look for popular leadership blogs, industry newsletters, and business and economic development sources to expand your knowledge and gather different points of view.
When you find relevant articles, share them with your colleagues; doing so has the dual benefit of establishing you as a resource for your contacts and highlighting your industry expertise.
8. Cultivate your professional network
Most successful leaders maintain an active and extensive professional network. You can start expanding your own base of contacts by broadening your horizons within your own company.
Don’t overlook the value of social media, including sites like LinkedIn, as you work to build your connections, both inside and outside your organization while keeping in mind the value of in-person networking activities. Whether face-to-face or virtual, cultivate relationships to ensure your network grows deep and wide as you continue to grow your business leadership abilities over time.
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