March 2, 2016

Know when to be a flexible leader

In today’s constantly changing business world, at times effective leaders actually contradict traditional notions of leadership. Some companies find a strategy or approach that works for them and repeat it for as long as possible. However, this static approach isn’t effective in a world undergoing massive technological change on a regular basis. In our new paradigm, efficient leaders realize flexibility is an essential skill.

The firm of tomorrow

At Collins Barrow SNT LLP, change is our middle name. We’re always developing new departments, and a variety of specialty services that extends above and beyond traditional accounting. I spend a lot of time thinking about the firm of tomorrow. From listening to presentations about new software—for example, video conferencing has been essential in keeping our five locations in constant communication—to learning about other innovations that might help us improve.

Overcoming ego

Let’s be honest, leadership roles can result in a certain amount of ego gratification. It can be difficult to make decisions that may feel as if you’re reducing you role. However, this is often the best route to effective solutions. With that in mind, I don’t just give direction to my partners, I also take it from them. As a result, I’m not always 100% in line with the decisions that are made, but I have found that it always pays to embrace the perspectives of others and form consensus.

Admit mistakes

Once you have formed consensus on the best step forward (especially when investing in innovation and chance), you have to be ready to admit when you’re wrong. For example, we implemented some software that took us two years and three tries to get right – it was hard to restart that many times but we stuck with it because we were convinced that the concept was the right one for us. I would still rather make a definite decision, commit to it, and be ready to go in another direction if necessary. It’s inefficient to balance two conflicting ideas at the same time and give them equal weight.

Borrow good ideas

I’m always on the lookout for fresh ideas. While some leaders believe that experimentation is the best way to find these new ideas, I also see value in the examples that are already out there. There are a lot of firms doing interesting things and I think time is well spent learning from them, rather than always trying to reinvent the wheel. Other examples may not always be relevant to our needs, but it’s important that we take the time to make that determination. If you ignore the potential for progress, you get left behind pretty quick.

Richard Schaak, CPA, CA, is the Managing Partner of Collins Barrow SNT. A partner since 1992, he has contributed to the development of the region’s largest tax practice, the launch of the transaction services practice and the launch of CBSN’s advisory services department. Richard rarely eats breakfast, preferring to arrive early at the office for long coffee-fuelled mornings.

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