Who’s up for the top job now?

My last column reflected on the qualities of females that make them good FDs.
Those same qualities also make many females highly suitable for even greater
leadership responsibility.

Because, for many of us, male and female, the role of FD is the final
stepping stone (albeit a major one) to the ultimate role.

My fellow columnist Mark Freebairn recently commented on the number of FTSE
100 FDs who have gone on to become chairmen. For many, though, the allure is the
position of real power, that of chief executive.

When David Nish, FD of Standard Life, was announced as its next chief, the
company became the 31st FTSE 100 company to be led by a former FD. We must be
doing something right or have qualities that make us extremely attractive

There is no doubt that, during the current crisis, boards have increasingly
looked for leaders who have keen financial skills and an understanding of
balance sheets. But are these skills enough as we start to slowly emerge from
recession? You would expect that leadership behaviours and skills might need to
alter in this environment.
A McKinsey survey indicates that the leadership behaviour that has helped
companies through the crisis ­ such as inspiring others, articulating a clear
direction for the company and defining expectations and rewards ­ will also be
required to ensure companies thrive in future.

While this would imply that FDs will continue to make great chief executives,
I believe there are two other capabilities that are going to be essential for
the leaders of those businesses that will emerge as winners post crisis. These
are innovation, and encouraging calculated and controlled risk taking. Do FDs
make good innovators? Are we great risk takers?

The fact that most of the FDs-turned-chief-executives at FTSE 100 companies
were in post and leading successful, growing companies long before the credit
crisis suggests that we are capable of innovating. And our training has taught
us that you only maximise value if you take risk. Innovation and risk taking go
hand in hand, and our ability to analyse and challenge assumptions may mean that
we are better risk takers than individuals from other backgrounds.

So, yes, FDs will make great chief executives after the crisis and hopefully
many of our future CEOs will not only be former FDs, but also women.

Margaret Ewing is vice chairman at Deloitte and former CFO of BAA

Related reading