Assessing Your Leadership Team

Businesswoman sitting on table while talking with four coworkersFour common challenges.

By Anthony Zecca

“Every person is unique, put the right people with the right capability to the right position to solve the right problems.” – Pearl Zhu, author “Digital Master” book series

One of the most critical factors affecting the ability of a firm leader to be an Edge leader versus a center leader is the effectiveness of the leadership team. There is a direct link between the strength of the leadership team and the firm leader’s ability to lead from the edge. A strong team allows the firm leader to lead whereas a weak team forces the firm leader to manage.

MORE: Incremental Vs. Exceptional Success | Do You Lead or Just Manage? | Managing Vs. Leading | Is Your Leadership Team at the Edge? | 6 Leadership Challenges Through COVID and Beyond | Edge Leaders Share 7 Strengths | Leadership Must Drive Culture | Leading from the Edge
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Center leaders appoint or promote individuals to leadership positions generally without any objective model of what is needed in the position to drive success and to support the firm’s strategic objectives. Center leaders promote based on what they think they know about the individual or based on putting someone on the team who will be a team player – someone the center leader knows will not rock the boat. All too often, the center leader will promote or appoint someone to a leadership position because they have been there the longest or based on friendship.
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Incremental Vs. Exceptional Success

Stylized industrial 3D number 8Eight seismic changes that have altered the future for accounting firms.

By Anthony Zecca

“All organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they are now getting. If we want different results, we must change the way we do things.” – Tom Northup, author of “Five Hidden Mistakes CEOs Make”

What a great statement not just about accounting firms, but all organizations – “perfectly designed to get the result they are now getting.” There is another old saying that goes something like this: “If you want different results you have to do things differently.” Center leaders hold onto the status quo whereas Edge leaders constantly push the envelope of what is possible – pushing to the future edge.

MORE: Do You Lead or Just Manage? | Managing Vs. Leading | Is Your Leadership Team at the Edge? | 6 Leadership Challenges Through COVID and Beyond | Edge Leaders Share 7 Strengths | Leadership Must Drive Culture | Leading from the Edge
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Leadership is a topic that has been researched, talked about, written about, training sessions built around, and endless models developed – yet it is also one of the most challenging issues in most firms today. Over my career, I have worked and consulted with leaders of all shapes and styles and firms that experienced varying degrees of success. Based on working with hundreds of companies, my conclusions – and two of the primary reasons that drove me to write my book – are that in many cases, firms are performing below their capabilities and every firm has the potential to reach higher levels of performance if and when leadership moves from the center to the EDGE. Edge leaders want to be at the top of the pack when it comes to all metrics that matter whereas center leaders are content to remain average.
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Do You Lead or Just Manage?

Group of businesspeople hiding their faces behind question mark signs at office5 questions to answer.

By Anthony Zecca

Let’s look at examples of managing versus leading from two actual clients.

Stuck in Managing – Center Leadership

I was retained by the owner/CEO of a $40 million manufacturer of a home products company. The current leader inherited the business from his dad, and over 20+ years grew the business on the top line, but always struggled with profitability. Over the last few years, however, there was no top-line growth and he was frustrated.

MORE: Managing Vs. Leading | Is Your Leadership Team at the Edge? | 6 Leadership Challenges Through COVID and Beyond | Edge Leaders Share 7 Strengths | Leadership Must Drive Culture | Leading from the Edge
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His leadership view of the future was the next quarter, and the company had no strategy or vision beyond the current year. The most he thought about the future was when they were preparing their annual budget. This was an incremental process versus a real bottom-up process coupled with a growth strategy so as a management tool, the budget was relatively useless.
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Managing Vs. Leading

Are you solving too many problems?

By Anthony Zecca

One of the biggest obstacles to a firm realizing its potential, its partners and staff realizing their potential, and a firm leader maximizing his impact on the trajectory of the firm is when the line between leading and managing gets blurred.

MORE: Is Your Leadership Team at the Edge? | 6 Leadership Challenges Through COVID and Beyond | Edge Leaders Share 7 Strengths | Leadership Must Drive Culture | Leading from the Edge
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Too often, center leaders believe their job is telling everyone what to do and how to do it (managing things) versus providing the tools, authority and clarity on the firm’s strategic objectives and then getting out of the way (Edge leadership). Leadership at its most basic level is about inspiring everyone toward a common shared vision and ensuring that the decision-making hierarchy is clear and consistent within the firm’s mission and core values. Edge leadership is not about tactics and how things are done, but about making sure everyone is doing the right things, with accountability for results.
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Is Your Leadership Team at the Edge?

5 ways to evaluate them.

By Anthony Zecca

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” – Andrew Carnegie, industrialist

MORE: 6 Leadership Challenges Through COVID and Beyond | Edge Leaders Share 7 Strengths | Leadership Must Drive Culture | Leading from the Edge
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The above quote by Andrew Carnegie really puts a fence around the key responsibilities of your leadership team:

  • Ability to lead their team to work together toward a common vision
  • Ability to direct (drive) their individual team members’ efforts and accomplishments toward maintaining alignment with the firm’s objectives and
  • Ability to inspire and motivate each team member to achieve more than they have and to reach top performance and top results as a team

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6 Leadership Challenges Through COVID and Beyond

illustrationHow do you handle them?

By Anthony Zecca

Within every firm, every leader (edge or center) faces challenges every day. Sitting here in 2020 as I write this book, the challenges presented by COVID-19 are seismic in terms of impact as well as being totally unanticipated. COVID-19 has forced firm leaders to examine their own firm down to its very core and to make decisions that challenged their leadership in ways never imagined.

MORE: Edge Leaders Share 7 Strengths | Leadership Must Drive Culture | Leading from the Edge
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COVID-19 has also resulted in new leaders emerging from the chaos of the pandemic to rise to a level of Edge leadership. Edge leaders will see the opportunities created by COVID-19 while center leaders will only see the challenges. Edge leaders will examine every challenge and find the opportunity making the firm stronger as a result.
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Edge Leaders Share 7 Strengths

Here’s a clear picture of what this kind of leadership looks like.

By Anthony Zecca

Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and think about the leaders you have had in the past.

MORE: Leadership Must Drive Culture | Leading from the Edge
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If you are like me, your experience reflects some really good leaders and some poor leaders, with most being in the middle, i.e., average center leaders. READ MORE →

Leadership Must Drive Culture

Superhero businesswoman wearing shadow capeBehavior will drive the bus off the road.

By Anthony Zecca

“Culture is like the wind. It is invisible; yet its effect can be seen and felt.” – Bryan Walker, partner and managing director, Ideo

MORE: Leading from the Edge
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Edge leaders are magnificent creators and stewards of a winning culture. I use the concept of “creating” because, regardless of what process is used to develop the culture of the firm, it is the firm leader who either gives life to it or modifies it through action and communication. Edge leaders reflect the firm culture in all their actions, and they focus on ensuring that the firm’s performance is achieved within the culture and roadmap (strategy) that creates a standout, high-performing firm.
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Leading from the Edge

Unlocking the secret factor for growth and profitability.

With this article, CPA Trendlines launches a new weekly column by Anthony Zecca, author of the soon-to-be published “Leading from the Edge,” available exclusively from CPA Trendlines.

By Anthony Zecca
Leading from the Edge

Let’s talk about leadership – the type of leadership necessary to drive an organization to become a standout, high-performing organization. Although many of the principles are applicable to any middle-market organization, I have focused on professional service firms and within that, accounting firms where I spent my entire career.

“Every firm, every firm leader, every partner and every team member can stand out and be a top performer. It’s a choice and a commitment to excel.”

Throughout my career, I have worked with some fabulous standout organizations, some that were just improving a little each year and some that could not get out of their own way. I have worked with many leaders who consistently drove their organizations to excellence and significant growth in revenue and profits outperforming most in their industry.

I started to wonder, was there one factor that these standout organizations all shared?

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