Three Skills You Need to Lead a Firm of the Future

by Rachel Anevski, Matters of Management, LLC  – July 31, 2017
Three Skills You Need to Lead a Firm of the Future

According to Albert Einstein, “the measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” This speaks not only to the soft skills you will need to lead a firm of the future but also to the most important skill you will ever require in business: adaptability.

CPA firms today have many challenges: fee pressure, succession, talent acquisition, technical changes and politics, as well as rapid and continued advancements in technology. Therefore, being able to adapt quickly remains key in having an advantage. For some, having to transform, especially in the field of professional services, is worse than lying on a bed of nails. Undeniably, many CPAs enter this profession because they are attracted to finding the hard and fast answer to problems. Change is unknown, unfamiliar and uncomfortable, but it also leads to possibilities, revolutions and paradigm shifts.

Here are three soft skills you will need to lead a firm of the future:

1. Embrace Change

The leader of the future isn’t married to one particular notion; he or she is free to choose the best option that makes the most sense for the firm without hesitation. Firms that lack this soft skill are stuck in the mud. Even if they have a transformational leader in charge, if the majority of the partners are averse to change, the firm will stay complacent. You can inventory your firm’s existing leaders and future leaders to measure the likelihood of change with a simple behavioral tool, such as DISC analysis. This measure will give you the core of whether or not your firm requires a major or minor intervention so that you may plan your course of action.

2. Foster Creativity

“There is a way to do it better…find it,” said Thomas Edison. Creativity becomes second only to change and, in fact, to quote Einstein yet again, “creativity is intelligence having fun.” So they are pretty much in lock-step with one another. To lead a firm of the future, you will need the ability to be creative. Creativity means that you can — alone or in a group — come up with ideas that other firms haven’t yet dreamed of, or develop new tools so that the industry can perform more efficiently. Perhaps your creativity will lead you to a new-found way to engage future CPAs to modify roles in accounting that will create advanced op­portunities for diversity and conscientious gender parity. Creativity is the reason some firms have high rates of success through acquisition or can successfully grow in a specific niche or geographic location. Creativity at its best brings clients to your doorstep and a waiting list like Google has of hopeful career applicants. Look for creativity in each one of your accountants on staff, give opportunities to explore and celebrate this attribute, and if you feel un­derrepresented in this area, find it: recruit it and/or acquire it. It’s critical.

3. Be Resilient

The fighter proverb sums up the final soft skill: fall down seven times and get up eight. It’s resiliency that will allow future leaders to go on even when they are down for the count. With new ideas flying around and members of the firm committing to trying new things, there will likely be some failures. After all, there is no accounting for how many times the Wright Brothers got their flying machine wrong or how many times it took Edison to come up with the light bulb. But if they didn’t persist, they would never have succeeded. The ability to stay present, calculate, leave room for error and rebound will certainly justify your place as a leader in the years to come.

Perhaps when you read the title of this article, you expected it to cover soft skills such as leadership, rainmaking and com­munication. While those skills are still vi­tal, as we move forward, the only constant requirement for firms of the future will be the ability to change, create and rebound. How well will you and your firm fare? 

Rachel  Anevski

Rachel Anevski

Rachel Anevski, MAOB, PHR, SHRM-CP, is the founder and CEO of Matters of Management, LLC, a consulting and talent acquisition firm specializing in professional services.

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This article appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.