Integrity, expertise and the ability to see the bigger picture: senior ACCA members give their views on what qualities today’s leaders need to be successful in business
This article was first published in the September 2018 China edition of Accounting and Business magazine.
Rocky Lok FCCA, CFO, KFC Hong Kong & Macau
Professional accountants make good leaders because they are able to generate value to all via balancing benefits and costs, both implicit and explicit. A good leader is able to influence followers, getting the results not by way of position, power nor monetary reward; the most valuable and sustainable accomplishments out there in life are free!
Life is an iterative game, and if you think of the end scene right at the beginning you can shape it; if you decide to lead, make that decision early and just do it!
Clara Cheo FCCA, CEO, Golden Village Multiplex, Singapore
A good leader is one that can walk the talk, who can show their team how it can be done and be prepared to get down to the nitty-gritty. A leader encourages inter-departmental close collaboration and fosters great decision-making among all the other parts of the organisation, providing the platform for various team members to shine. Professional accountants, whether in financial or management accounting, have to work closely across departments in order to deliver their key performance indicators. They have the opportunity to learn from interacting with other colleagues and understanding the business, enabling them to play a role even in areas that are not their functional responsibility.
When I set out on my career, I didn’t plan to qualify as an accountant; neither did I ever imagine that I could be a leader. You build your credibility, deliver when you say you will and exceed expectations. Stand up and be counted and don’t wait for things to happen; make things happen.
Amos Ng FCCA, CFO, Straco, and immediate past chairman, ACCA Singapore network panel
Professional accountants are perhaps the best placed for strategic leadership, given their position at the heart of a company’s operations and their exposure, through financial management, to all facets of business. This helps them quickly build that broad technical foundation, while also giving them that big-picture view of company operations. We accountants should also arm ourselves with knowledge that cuts across the business, from operations through to business development.
At ACCA, we provide rigorous and structured training programmes to help our members build technical competencies outside the usual accounting scope, to help them better understand other facets of business management and give them a robust grounding on which to build their career.
A good leader must have a strong technical foundation, possess broad knowledge and experience and have the skills to communicate this understanding. They must also be able to maintain a bird’s-eye view of the company’s operations while possessing a strong ability to organise and motivate resources to achieve the objective.
You have to come into the job with a desire to learn, to build and expand your skillsets. With technology, our workers have been empowered like never before. What in the past would have taken days can now be done at the click of a mouse. The modern professional can do much more, and have a much greater impact, than in the past.
These days, even at what would typically be more junior positions, you can already practise and build many of the skillsets that are essential for leadership. And this is key; the modern business landscape will reward professionals who not only have deep expertise in specific fields, but who also have a broad range of skillsets and the ability to effectively bring this knowledge to bear. So my advice to those who have leadership ambitions is this: never stop learning, find learning opportunities everywhere you can and always focus on expanding your knowledge and skillsets.
Dato’ Merina Abu Tahir FCCA, head of internal audit, Malaysia Airlines and president, ACCA Malaysia Advisory Committee
Integrity and honesty are the most important qualities of a good leader; those with a strong ethical compass will lead successfully. Other characteristics include creativity, innovation, passion and compassion, and being a great communicator. A good leader also has clear vision, the ability to inspire, and the courage to direct and be accountable even in dire conditions.
ACCA-qualified professional accountants are well placed to become leaders because we are trained in good governance and ethics beyond technical skills, and are bound by our code of ethics. Strategic leaders must continuously maintain quality standards and remain relevant in line with changes in their business environment, such as business disruptions, technological changes and the more technical aspects of accounting standards. In line with this need, ACCA’s training and qualification emphasises ethical and strategic business leaders. In addition, ACCA members are continuously kept updated by meeting annual CPD requirements.
You never know what the future has in store for you. Grasp the opportunities that present themselves and the qualities of a professional accountant will help you to develop your career and become a leader in the future.
Jenny Gu FCCA, COO, Richemont China, and ACCA vice president
To me, leadership means being creative, innovative, strategic and communicative; showing commitment and passion to walk the talk and really inspire the team and organisation; and being able to deliver by being accountable and agile, and making the right decisions.
Beyond the qualities of integrity, humility and focus, ACCA’s professional accountants have been trained with vision and strategic planning, the courage to make the right decisions, and to collaborate with others to optimise results.
In my experience, being ambitious certainly helps an individual to focus on learning, practising and continuously expanding your leadership skills and capacity. But even without having an ambition to become a leader, if you have the desire to serve a mission bigger than yourself, there will be countless situations where leadership is called upon and you will take up the challenge.