The role of leadership in the financial industry.
In the past year, many of us – individuals and companies, in South Africa found ourselves reassessing our priorities, abandoning old ways of operating and embracing new approaches.
Effective leadership is especially important in challenging and uncertain times, particularly so with the Covid-19 pandemic, and the resulting economic impact. While the normal aims of our company leaders for stability and minimal organisational change are understandable, the pandemic has made achieving this very difficult.
Leadership Skills for Changing Times
More than ever, there is a great need for leaders that can embrace change, provide direction and promote unity. So let’s dig into some leadership skills you could work on acquiring as all leadership skills can also be learned, practised and developed.
Natural leaders usually have a combination of positive personality traits and soft skills. Below is a list of 10 skills that are important in the financial industry and make a good leader!
As accountants, we have to communicate with our clients and colleagues regularly and easily convey complex information. A competent financial communicator will be able to deliver presentations that others with no accounting background can understand. Thus being able to communicate your ideas clearly is a vital leadership skill, especially when you are required to clearly explain company goals.
2. Organisation and Time Management
Time is precious for people dealing with finances. Managing time effectively, being proactive, organised and planning ahead allows you to meet deadlines and complete projects on time. Project management tools and software can make this easier and help manage tasks, create reports, automate transactions etc. Beyond managing office time, it is also important to balance work hours with personal time.
3. Critical Thinking
In the financial industry accountants, auditors and other financial professionals are required to not only compile data, but also analyse it, detect trends or irregularities, and form strategies accordingly. Being able to think critically is a skill that can be developed over time while gaining experience in any industry.
4. Initiative and Decision Making
Leading a team requires the ability to take initiative, be proactive and make sound decisions with confidence. This shows independence but will also reassure and inspire your teammates to trust you more. It is also a way of continuously growing and developing yourself for better opportunities.
If the Covid-19 pandemic taught the financial services industry anything, it’s the need for more flexibility. For example allowing for working from home, flexible hours and giving employees the freedom to manage their individual schedules. Leadership requires flexibility in these times, with so many external factors like lockdowns, quarantines etc., making rigid planning impossible.
Company leaders need to be able to adapt quickly to whatever comes their way. Old ways of doing business, that worked well before the pandemic, are often completely impractical now. Therefore to succeed, leaders need to learn from these continual changes and adapt quickly to the needs of both their employees and customers.
7. Embracing Technology
In the financial world, the focus needs to be shifted to the demands of new generations of prospective clients and customers, and the pandemic has definitely increased digital adoption. Embracing new technologies gives you the ability to move with the times and better connect with newer generations (Millennials and Gen Z), who have high expectations of technology adoption within all spheres of business.
An important part of leadership is ensuring that the next generation also has competent leaders to guide them into the future. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your team members and guiding them accordingly will help to steer them in the right direction. Leaders should be role models and motivate others to become better at their jobs while remaining available and approachable.
Another beneficial leadership quality is connecting with others and building relationships, both with colleagues and customers. This quality also helps a good leader to learn from others, understand employees and work together to overcome challenges. It will also result in happier staff and boosted morale improves the team’s capacity to work efficiently.
10. Transparency and Integrity
Leadership in the financial industry also means gaining the trust of your clients and colleagues. Organisations need to be transparent and display integrity more than ever because of the changes within our society. Today’s leaders are expected to always place people before profits and make ethically responsible decisions. This approach will yield long-term, sustainable results and success.
Leaders who successfully promote a culture of continuous improvement, are open to change and adaptation, are innovative, add value for their customers, and work hard to build lifelong relationships with their clients and staff.
Companies that will flourish in the future will focus on supporting their employees to perform at their best and investing in their leadership potential, not only technical ability.
Successful Leadership in the Financial Industry
Being a leader in the financial sector involves more than sitting behind a desk with a spreadsheet! Accountants and other financial professionals must play an active role in the business world and should be encouraged to build on their great leadership potential.
In the financial industry, and other business sectors, leaders will position themselves for the future, adapt to changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, commit to constant improvement, introduce fresh ideas and motivate others in their field.
Growing in Leadership at Exceed
At Exceed, we aim to be an example to our peers in the financial industry. Our management team works hard to instil a culture of effective leadership within the company, which we also foster in our staff and trainees. We believe that chartered and professional accountants have an important role in leading the economy.