FD Insight: Leadership tips for FDs

September 1st 2016 | Posted by phil scott

FD Insight: Leadership tips for FDs

Leadership is becoming an increasingly crucial skill to possess. Gone are the days of the bean counter, we’re in an era of FDs holding leadership roles, being savvy communicators and motivators.
This article explains the ingredients of great leadership. Don’t worry if these skills don’t come naturally, they can all be learned and developed. Just being aware of the components and understanding your role will improve your performance. Master them, and who knows what possibilities will be unlocked?

Recruit the right team

It’s easier to lead a team to success when that team consists of the right people, and the best way to ensure this is to hire the right individuals in the first place.
Recruitment can be a lengthy and resource-intensive process. It can be tempting to cut corners or even to excuse yourself from the process altogether. But if you’re not involved in shaping the job description, helping to sort through applicants, sitting in on interviews, and checking references, how can you expect that the new recruit will be the perfect fit for your team? If you want to lead a team of qualified, able professionals with the right attitude, you need to take some responsibility for putting it together.
And don’t be scared to employ individuals who have skills you don’t, or who might even seem smarter than you. Leadership isn’t about having all the talent yourself, it’s about steering the team’s collective talent toward a common goal.

Learn to communicate effectively

Ask any successful leader and they’ll tell you communication is one of the most important components to success. Individuals and teams are more likely to hit their goals if you make it clear what you expect of them and what your measure of success is.
And you’re far more likely to be able to help if you ask for and listen to feedback, whether that’s what assistance they require, new ideas for working practices or even just checking in for regular updates. Communicating, as a leader, should be as much about learning as sharing your own ideas.

Master motivation

Alongside the ability to communicate is the ability to motivate. While it’s true that most people go to work to earn money, money is rarely the only motivating factor and paying more doesn’t usually result in an individual working harder or smarter.
As a leader, it’s your job to know what the individuals in your team are working for. Some may have specific career goals they’re working towards, others are fulfilling creative ambitions, some may like to feel like they’re having an influence on an organisation. Sometimes home life is more important to an individual, and that’s fine too because you can leverage flexible working to ensure you both get what you need.
If you know what drives your team, and finding out is as simple as asking, you can learn to reward them effectively, breeding loyalty, dedication and hard work.

Address problems quickly

Unfortunately, while leadership involves rewarding and praising individuals, the flip side is that you’re also in the hot seat when troubles arise. Note this: problems rarely resolve themselves if left alone. Usually, they get worse.
If you have an individual that’s under-performing, badly behaving or otherwise standing in the way of team harmony and success then it’s your responsibility to address it, and quickly.
Step in early, and it gives the employee opportunity to change or improve, maybe they’ll even ask for help that you can provide. If they don’t improve, you can take them out of the team before things turn toxic. Whatever the outcome, it’s for the benefit of your team, the organisation and your reputation as a leader to act with courage and take decisive action.

Look after number one

Leadership can be extremely stressful at times. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, said Shakespeare. And so one of your duties is to look after yourself.
No matter how long the hours or how much of your brain a current project is taking up, it’s important to eat right, exercise and rest. Everything else is built on these cornerstones, and no matter how tempting it may be to skip one or all, your performance will suffer if you do.
You owe it to the team that’s counting on you to be at your best.


Mentoring is a fantastic way of developing your own skills as well as those around you. Mentors can offer advice, ask pertinent questions, or simply act as a sympathetic ear. With a mentor on your side, you never need to feel alone, and you know there is somebody to turn to for advice.
To be a mentor means helping an individual, but also learning about yourself. Working through somebody else’s problems is a great way to put your own life and career under the microscope. Maybe you’ll even find answers to questions you hadn’t asked yet.
Mentoring is a very personal choice, it’s requires finding someone who understands your industry, or your role within it, as well as someone you respect enough to listen to but don’t revere so much that you can’t challenge their ideas.
Find a mentor for yourself, and encourage team members find their own. If you end up acting as a mentor, all the better, you’ll learn a lot.