'A leader has to understand the big picture'
A nontraditional start: I didn't go to college immediately. I was raised by my grandparents, who died by the time I was 18. I had to go to work right out of high school. I got married young and had a child. After five years working various jobs — a receptionist, a telemarketer, and others — I learned this was not what I wanted to do with my life. With anything, the hardest part is starting. I was divorced. My son was 18 months old. I enrolled in college at night and worked full time during the day. My education journey was 10 years. I obtained an undergraduate and graduate degree. Coupled with my work experience, this was the foundation to becoming a CPA and achieving additional certifications. Looking back at it now, I would not do anything differently. I can relate to so many different individuals because of my experiences.
Face time is important in a digital world: We all need technical capabilities to do our job. I learned early in my career that a technical skill set is only going to get you so far in your career. Careers have transitioned to a team-based focus. Understanding how to communicate with my team, other teams, or management is what helps me in my job and to progress professionally. Instead of communicating by email or phone, I started to meet with people directly to form a relationship. This was the first way that I started to embrace leadership opportunities. I don't think I could have been as effective if I'd used phone and email versus meeting with individuals.
The keys to leadership: The best leaders are those who want to be in the position. Leaders do things behind the scenes and don't always get rewarded, but I believe you shouldn't want to be rewarded, or you're definitely in leadership for the wrong reason. I also believe that a leader has to understand the big picture. A narrow focus can lead to inconsistent decisions or a lack of understanding as to how they'll affect others. Not everyone has to be a leader. Teams need different types of people. We need doers to get things done. We need socializers who make connections. We need people to initiate tasks. If we were all the same, we would never learn anything.
Humility in leadership: Humility is a significant part of leadership. We have a job to do, but we can't take out the human aspect. Our direct reports need to be able to relate to us. If they can't, that hinders us and shows we're not doing what we should be as a leader. I believe all leaders should be approachable. As a leader, you have to be able to relate, adapt, and connect: relate to individuals; adapt by meeting people where they are, from a career standpoint; and connect by sharing our stories as a leader and mentor.
— As told to Lea Hart, a freelance writer based in Durham, N.C. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac, a JofA editorial director, at Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com.