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Leadership qualities

A venture capital investor once defined the qualities he looked for in a finance director. Technical competence headed the list, followed by a capacity to understand the business, great communication skills and a personality as vigorous as it was rigorous.

This needn’t only apply to FDs. Anyone working in a senior position in
finance needs these qualities if they are to be fully effective.

Technical competence should be a given. As for a capacity to understand the
business, long gone are the days when finance professionals could get away with
just producing accurate numbers.

That’s not to say that the integrity of the figures is not important.
Accounting scandals have put the spotlight firmly on accounting integrity. But
in all walks of finance, directors and managers are being asked to provide
levels of analysis and explanation for strategic purposes in addition to the
more traditional services.

In contributing to the strategic debate, you must be able to explain what the
numbers mean to other business disciplines. Every communication – verbal,
written or a more formal presentation – needs to be complete, clear, relevant,
free of unnecessary clutter and detail, and free of bias.

Vigour and rigour are two qualities that succinctly reflect the
strategy/stewardship balance. Rigour is a determination to ensure that
everything we produce and every contribution we make meets standards of
integrity, accuracy and usefulness, particularly if our output is to be used in
the decision-making process. Poor analysis leads to poor decisions and poor
business results.

Vigour is the energy to initiate and innovate, to push and prod, to lead
staff and inspire them to meet the standards, to insist on the integrity of the
numbers and the ethics surrounding them. It is the foundation that ensures
future decision making is firmly grounded.

In the end, it all comes down to the ability and willingness of the senior
professional to persuade and influence, to demonstrate the value of finance’s
contribution, to win respect, to negotiate outcomes and to handle conflicts. In
other words, it all comes down to leadership.

Pat Scott is partner and executive coach at Woodbridge Partners

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