Finance directors must be leaders too

Paul Breckell of the RNID rounds up wisdom from the experts

Many finance directors are skilled at doing things right. But according to Warren Bennis, leadership writer and professor of business administration at the University of Southern California, that's not always enough.

"Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right," he says.

Doing things right is important for charity finance directors, but sometimes they have to do more than that. More than ever, in these stormy times for the UK economy, they are being called upon to be leaders; and that means they must also do the right thing. Leadership is more than just management at a more senior level.

Indeed, leadership and seniority of role do not necessarily coincide. According to management consultant Peter Drucker, there are five basic management functions: setting objectives; organising; motivating; measuring results; and developing people. To implement these functions successfully, leaders need to have good planning, organising and communication skills.

Many people who are managers also exercise leadership in their roles. But leadership involves more than these skills alone: it relies much more on qualities such as integrity, sincerity, passion, confidence, determination and compassion.

We have learned from the recent scandal surrounding MPs' expenses that people expect and demand integrity and honesty from their leaders. Without that sense of trust, it doesn't matter how good you might be at the job, people will not want to follow.

Leadership is implicitly about people. In his book Re-imagine!, Tom Peters describes business as being "90 per cent people and 10 per cent technology". When good leadership is exercised, people commit to a course of action with energy and enthusiasm, work to meet agreed objectives and stick to a set of coherent values.

This is not to say that good leadership is about trying to create uniformity. Difference and diversity are good; they give breadth and perspective to a team and make it more resilient to changing circumstances.

It's important not to be overwhelmed by people's expectations of you as a leader. Remember this quote from publisher and raconteur Malcolm S Forbes: "Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are."

Leadership can be displayed in a number of ways. Just remember to keep your integrity.

Paul Breckell is executive director of finance and corporate resources at the RNID


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