Ethical values, vision and an understanding of what it means to fail: senior finance leaders from around the world share their thoughts on key skills for the top
This article was first published in the September 2018 Africa edition of Accounting and Business magazine.
Marios Skandalis FCCA
‘Professional accountants are well placed through their training to evolve into good leaders. But unless the core values of ethics are present, it is like attempting to build a house without any foundations.
‘Ethical values cannot be acquired through rigorous training or tutoring. Unless a professional accountant comprehends the real value behind integrity and transparency, and lives by them, then these will not drive their behaviour, which will eventually drive their corporate performance.
‘A successful professional accountant is one who always adheres to a code of conduct, whereas a true leader is one who lives to the principles of a code of ethics. The former simply pushes for accomplishment of a set of corporate objectives, whereas the latter inspires success through acting and behaving rightly and honestly.
‘A successful professional accountant will ensure they successfully deliver what is expected, whereas a true leader will eventually crystallise a breakthrough which will remain as a hallmark in the evolution of the accounting profession.’
Director of group compliance, Bank of Cyprus
Felix Mutati FCCA
‘You are not ready for leadership until you have first mastered the contours of failure. The most inspiring leaders are those who show us their ability to tenaciously overcome failures and motivate their people
to succeed against the grain.
‘Leadership is not about managing grand projects or the preservation of one’s own image, but about developing people and celebrating their creativity and diversity. Only then can we incubate the greatest ideas and express the grandest designs.
‘I learned a lot about leadership from Nelson Mandela; his long walk epitomised the idea that after climbing a great hill one discovers there are many more to climb.’
Minister of works and supply, Zambia
Dato’ Merina Abu Tahir FCCA
‘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.’
Head of internal audit, Malaysia Airlines and president, ACCA Malaysia Advisory Committee
‘Leadership has three broad elements and characteristics. First is vision and creativity: what opportunities could this organisation grasp?
‘Second is courage: trying to do new things or behaving differently, positioning yourself for a projected future, dealing with ambiguity – a leader has to be willing to run risks.
‘Third, at a lofty level, is to inspire; at a more prosaic level, to influence and persuade people that your vision is worth pursuing. It can be lonely to act on a vision; you need people with you to make the vision happen.’
CEO, International Federation of Accountants (see also interview on page 12)
Brian Ierland FCCA
‘Leadership is helping people on a journey, often when they don’t feel confident of the route. It is recognising their individual needs to help them move.
‘As leaders we set direction – some call it vision – and then take people with us. And that can be difficult, not because of a lack of willingness but because you are dealing with ambiguity. Often there is no right or wrong answer.’
FD of air division, BAE Systems