Leadership: you’ll never be top dog

Sometimes I think that the world is divided between the people who make
things happen and those that account for it. I know it is an over simplification
but all the personality assessments, type indicators and their like break us
into four types: the pragmatic, the analytical, the amiable and the extrovert.

Analytical personality types make great accountants. Conscious of the minute
details and focused on ensuring that everything is accounted for. They check and
re-check everything; analysing all possible outcomes; each possible permeation;
things that can go wrong; things that can go right… And basically, because of
this attitude they appear totally boring to the rest of us.

Unkind, unfair, unjustified I hear you cry! Maybe ­ but only just. The
analytical can’t be two things at once. They are unable to be an extrovert and
an analytical, which means they don’t make good sales people.

In addition to this damning description, they typically aren’t good at
getting people fired up or excited, which means they tend not to be good
leaders. It is simply not part of who they are, their individual make-up, the
DNA of their personality.

2+2 is always 4

Ultimately accountants are too focused on the details to be fun or dynamic.
One and one is two, and that is that, the question is answered and that is all
there is to it.

Of course, the exception proves the rule and the occasional accountant can
make two plus two equal 22 if they position it right on the page, but that
glimmer is as far as they go. Some people will argue that the best accountants
get creative with tax issues but the truth is far from creativity, they are
merely following or exploiting a set of specific rules.

At this stage you could be forgiven for thinking that I am against
accountants or analytical people. Far from it ­ in fact the world would be a
terrible place if the analyticals, and accountants in particular, were not ther
e filling a very important role. We need people that will focus on the detail
and follow through to the end when the extrovert and amiable have got bored and
moved on.

And most of all we need them because their absence would mean no grounding to
ensure liquidity within organisations.

Mechanics don’t fly the planes

In the same way that I would not employ an extrovert to be an accountant, an
accountant does not make a good salesman or leader for that matter. When I hear
that the CEO has been fired and an accountant is put in charge of a company that
is in trouble or on the verge of bankruptcy, I groan (and dump any stock I might
have left) because I hear the last nail of the coffin being driven home.

I can hear you cry out in response: ‘The company is failing because the CEO
has been negligent and not heeded the advice of the CFO!’ That is a strong
argument and might be true in many cases but that does not mean the ideal
replacement is the CFO. Imagine an aeroplane. The mechanic that maintains the
engine is not necessarily going to be the best pilot. He can tell the pilot how
to fly to get the best out of the engine ­ but that does not mean he knows how
to fly.

Know your place

Accountants hold a very valuable position and are key to ensuring that a
business stays healthy, a fact that should never be underestimated and always
valued. The accountant should bring the balance to the leader, much like the
mechanic balances the pilot. The leader and pilot rarely see everything in
logical figures, which is why they see the opportunities and the best way to
make the most of the situation.

Typically an accountant is unable to see anything from a different
perspective unless it involves facts based on logic. The leader on the other
hand is required to see the intangibles that simply do not make sense at face
value. The leader sees the human perspective and the need to think beyond the
simple equations of people pitching up and doing what is expected.

When seeking to expand a business, the leader will see the opportunities and
the accountant will bring the leader down to earth to face the realities. One
without the other is like a pilot without a mechanic. The very best companies
are those that have the perfect balance of a pragmatic CEO and an analytical
accountant/CFO and both value the input of the other. When both see each other
as a vehicle to understand things from a different perspective you have a force
to be reckoned with.

May we always have the balance of good accountants and good leaders. May we
never fall into the trap of thinking that one is more important than the other.
They are both as valuable as the heart and lungs are to the human body.

Spot the difference

An accountant sees a cost and seeks to reduce it.

A leader may well see how to double the output from the same costs.

An accountant will see the need to reduce overheads and retrench people.

A leader will consider the impact that has on others and how to achieve the
reduction in a way that does not de-motivate people.

Type cast

The Pragmatic is typically your CEO or Entrepreneur, someone who thinks
strategically and is out there trying new things.

The Extrovert is the salesman, always excitedly trying to get people to buy
his or her wares and services.

The Amiable is the person that gets things done in a slow and methodical way
– but it is a way that is comfortable to everyone.

The Analytical is the person doing all the analysis and making sure all I’s
and T’s are crossed before moving on.

Paul Bridle is a leadership methodologist and managing
director of

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