Personal Leadership for Accountants & Busy Professionals
Accountants are renowned for their meticulous attention to detail and adeptness at balancing the books. However, a skillset often overlooked in this profession is the ability to balance personal wellbeing alongside professional responsibilities, which is where personal leadership comes in.
The concept of personal leadership transcends the usual boundaries of professional leadership, extending into all facets of one’s life. Personal leadership is about proactively guiding your life in the direction you desire, taking control of your own actions, decisions, and wellbeing. In essence, being the Leader of your life.
Having worked for over a decade as a Chartered Accountant with leading companies such as KPMG and BDO, I have certainly experienced and witnessed the transformative force of personal leadership. It is the catalyst that empowers individuals to face the monkeys on their backs – the work-related stressors, self-doubt, procrastination, or personal challenges.
But how can accountants cultivate this essential skill? In fact, how can busy professionals broadly speaking do so too?
Here are 5 practical strategies that accountants and busy professionals alike can implement to build personal leadership and find equilibrium between their work and wellbeing.
1) SET CLEAR GOALS (WITH ACCOUNTABILITY)
We cannot hit a target that we don’t have, so setting clear goals is a vital part of being the leader of your professional and personal life.
It’s a habit more than anything and something I practiced for the most part of my corporate career in the Chartered Accounting space. I also instilled this practice in my teams too, not only to foster high performance, but also, a sense of vision and clarity, which in turn breeds confidence and optimism.
Take time aside to look at the big picture (2-5 years), and paint the picture of where you’d like to be, in all aspects of life. Dream build, but then, bring it back to 12 months, and begin the goal setting there. Define your professional and personal objectives and break them down into actionable steps.
Additionally, establish an accountability system to ensure progress towards these goals. For instance, find an accountability partner or use a task management app to track your progress. Regularly assess and adjust your goals to stay aligned with your evolving aspirations, fostering personal leadership through intentional goal-setting.
2) FOSTER A GROWTH MINDSET
I still vividly remember that defining moment from several years ago. It was 4:00 PM, and my partner burst into my office, their eyes filled with urgency. A not-for-profit organisation needed our tax expertise, and they needed it by tomorrow morning. I’d never worked in the NFP space before. Despite the unfamiliar territory, I embraced the challenge with unwavering determination. To my advantage, there was no time for hesitation or self-doubt to creep in. So for the next few hours, I dove headfirst into the complex world of not-for-profit tax regulations, immersing myself in every detail and ensured that the advice was ready by the promised deadline. And you know what? That experience ignited a flame within me—a passion I never knew existed. It propelled me to become the driving force behind the creation of a brand new division within our firm, dedicated to serving and empowering not-for-profit organisations.
Our potential can only be maximised when we adopt a growth mindset. Embrace challenges and view setbacks as opportunities for growth. Take on new responsibilities that push you outside your comfort zone, such as leading a complex audit or spearheading a financial process improvement project. Cultivate a mindset of resilience, adaptability, and a desire for learning from experiences. By adopting a growth mindset, you will develop personal leadership qualities that propel your professional growth, and discover things about yourself you never knew.
3) PRIORITISE WELLBEING FOR OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE
I know all too well how our own wellbeing can get put to the side in striving to meet deadlines and balance the books. Burnout isn’t a fun place to be, an overwhelming state of emotional and physical exhaustion. It’s soul sucking, joy robbing, and passion eroding.
However, with age, wisdom, education and the school of hard knocks, I’ve realised that wellbeing is not a luxury, but a necessity, and must be made a priority for sustained success. At this stage in my young life (well, I’d like to think), I run robust routines and rituals to enable me to look after myself, and by doing so, allow me to perform at my peak, while enjoying the journey.
It’s the little things that make the biggest difference in any given day or moment.
Take regular breaks during the workday to recharge and engage in activities that promote physical and mental health. For instance, incorporate short walks, stretching exercises, or mindfulness meditation into your routine. Set clear boundaries between work and personal life, such as designating specific “offline” hours and creating a dedicated workspace at home.
By investing in your well-being, you’ll find your stress levels decreasing, productivity increasing, relationships enhanced, and a renewed sense of fulfilment, satisfaction and peace.
4) PRACTICE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE (EQ)
In his book “Emotional Intelligence – Why it can matter more than IQ,” renowned psychologist Daniel Goleman explores the five domains of emotional intelligence (EQ): self-awareness, self-regulation, internal motivation, empathy, and social skills. Among these domains, self-awareness stands as the foundational cornerstone of emotional intelligence.
By practicing each of the 5, we become more in control of our lives. We can better understand and manage not only our own thoughts and emotions, but others too. We can make healthier choices, and develop richer relationships with others.
Here are some practical examples:
- During client meetings, actively listen and show empathy and understanding towards their concerns. This will strengthen rapport and build trust.
- Engage in regular self-reflection to gain insight into your strengths, weaknesses, and areas for personal growth. Take time to evaluate your actions, goals, and values, and align them with your personal and professional aspirations.
- Set aside a weekly self-reflection session where you journal about your achievements, challenges, and lessons learned, helping you gain self-awareness and drive personal development.
- Exercise mindfulness to foster greater self regulation by being fully present and aware in the moment, which will enable you to make informed decisions and manage stress effectively. For example, before diving into a complex client task or meeting, take a moment to breathe deeply, centre yourself, and focus on the task at hand. This practice will help you approach the task with clarity and composure.
5) EMBRACE LIFELONG LEARNING
At the young age of 25, I made a decision that would forever shape my life. I took a leap of faith and invested my precious time and hard-earned money into a transformative personal development and leadership course. Little did I know at the time, it would be a game-changer, igniting a spark within me that would burn brighter with each passing day.
I immersed myself in a world of growth, attending seminars, devouring books, and seeking guidance from mentors. The impact was profound. It propelled me to new heights in my corporate career and triggered a personal transformation. Shedding my limitations, I embraced uncharted territories, and now proudly stand as a professional speaker, inspiring others to unleash their potential. That decision, that leap of faith, was the catalyst that propelled me toward a life of purpose, growth, and limitless possibilities. It was a testament to the power of investing in oneself and embracing the journey of personal development.
Seek opportunities to expand your knowledge beyond traditional accounting skills. For example, attend seminars or workshops on leadership, communication, and emotional intelligence. Take advantage of technology today and listen to podcasts and the like daily. Make it part of your routine. Enrol in an online course. Acquiring these additional competencies will enable you to effectively lead and collaborate with colleagues, leading to improved work relationships and personal growth. It will also enable you to become the trusted advisor to clients.
To conclude, personal leadership holds the key to unlocking the true potential and profound fulfilment that accountants and busy professionals alike crave in their professional and personal lives. It’s the tool that gives individuals the courage to face their monkeys, the optimism to dream, and the tenacity to reach their fullest potential.
By embracing the practical strategies shared in this article, individuals can ignite a powerful transformation within themselves. It’s a journey that demands courage, resilience, and a burning desire to rise above the ordinary.
Life, after all, is not just about balancing books, but also about finding the balance within.
So, take the leap. Take control, and become the leader of your life. Embrace the journey with every fibre of your being. Because it’s worth it.