ENGAGE 2022: Pearls of Leadership

This year’s AICPA ENGAGE event wrapped up this week in a hybrid format with approximately 4,000 attendees, about half of whom were on hand at the Aria in Las Vegas. Although technology is my main focus, the most intriguing speaker (based on the length of the notes taken) was Carla Harris, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley.

She talked about leadership and the importance of creating a powerful presence, which is as crucial for technology leadership as it is for business leadership. While leadership is often a “soft” subject subject to personal interpretation, Carla concisely delivered “Eight Pearls of Leadership Wisdom” that everyone could learn from in today’s transient environment of professional and personal uncertainty. today.

Over the past few decades, the path to success and leadership positions for the most part has been characterized by being a primary “producer” and outperforming others in your chosen field of endeavor. In competitive environments, leaders touted the mantra “my way or the highway” if you want to advance within the company. Carla said this thinking has become less effective as the expectations of new hires and senior managers have changed significantly.

Today’s workforce entering the workforce grew up in an environment where everyone was rewarded and expected participation with leadership, including transparency and feedback. If they don’t get it, they don’t hesitate to leave the company to seek it elsewhere. Combine that with the reality that the ongoing uncertainties created by the pandemic over the past two years have also caused many “seasoned” employees to question their personal career paths. While the turnover is most often described as the “great resignation”, Carla said it’s more realistically a “great contemplation”, with which today’s business owners must be in sync if they are to be effective leaders in this new environment.

  • Pearl #1: Being authentic is a distinct competitive advantage. If you use your intellectual capacity to promote who you really are, more people will trust you as a leader. It means being authentically visible, transparent and empathetic, which will engender trust among your peers, especially in these times of instability and confusion. Carla said being authentic goes beyond just showcasing your work persona, but also your private persona where your own interests, hobbies and skills will connect with the people you are trying to lead or manage. influence both inside and outside the company.
  • Pearl #2: Intentionally build trust. In today’s rapidly changing world where we compete on innovation and transformation, we will need increased collaboration at all levels of staff both internally and with external resources. To earn the trust of employees and customers, Carla said, you just have to keep doing what you say you will do, over and over and over and over again. Asking those you want to influence what they want, what they value, and then helping them achieve/get those things is how to intentionally build trust.
  • Pearl #3: Create clarity. The people you lead perform better when they know exactly what is expected of them. This includes not only defining what represents successful completion of the task, but also the timeline and deadline for completion, so that expectations are understood by all parties. If project timelines cannot be met, it should be discussed as soon as you are aware of it so that other avenues or resources can be convened.
  • Pearl #4: Create other leaders to amplify your impact. One of the keys to being a leader is doing leader-level work that ONLY YOU can do, and delegating other tasks to help those people develop their individual skills and leadership abilities. And then let them do so that they become leaders. Freeing up your time to focus on higher-level, future-facing initiatives is essential to being a more effective leader tomorrow than you are today.
  • Pearl #5: Build a diverse team. Times of transformation and innovation require a broader range of knowledge, experience and collaboration skills to understand and appeal to the increasingly distinct customers we have today. Millennials have grown up in increasingly diverse environments and if they don’t see this diversity within the companies they work for, they will find it in other employers where they will be more comfortable.
  • Pearl #6: Teach your team to innovate. Innovation is trying new things and taking risks. Taking risks means you will sometimes fail. Leaders need to teach their teams that it’s okay to fail when trying something new, and that failure can provide invaluable experience, especially when leaders are constructive and complimentary in the face of failure.
  • Pearl #7: Be inclusive. Great leaders seek input from ALL team members. Carla said asking each team member’s opinion by name, and then asking them to build on the ongoing discussion or present their concerns, makes them feel like they’re truly part of the team. the team and to lend its support to any solution adopted by the team.
  • Bead #8: Call a thing a thing. When there is bad news or bad behavior, good leaders must have the courage to report it immediately. Being upfront with employees and providing positive guidance helps maintain trust and get things done. Calling out a “thing” that other team members may also be aware of is motivating for other team members because they know they can rely on that leader to deal with these types of situations for the good of them all. all.

Whether you are a business owner, a member of an IT team, an accounting professional or an administrative staff member, future success depends on your ability to grow and manage your responsibilities, and being a better leader is as important as developing the technical skills that got you where you are. today.


Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA.CITP, CGMA is director of firm technology strategy for Right Networks and partners exclusively with accounting firms on production automation, application optimization and practice transformation. He has been consistently listed as one of INSIDE Public Accounting’s Most Recommended Consultants, Accounting Today’s 100 Most Influential People, and CPA Practice Advisor’s Top Thought Leaders.

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