5 Tips to Position Yourself as a Leader 

    by Steve Rivera, CPA 

    Many people think the accountant’s role is “bean counter”—that we exist merely to crunch numbers and report errors or discrepancies.  Of course, this is just a stereotype. We accountants are not only vital members of our functional teams, but we play a crucial role in the success of our organizations. We understand the strategies, goals and risks of doing business.  Throughout my career, I have made an effort to disprove perceptions about accountants, asserted myself into business decisions as a  thought leader and become the go-to person before major decisions are made in my organization. It is my hope that you can use the below tips as guidance to help change the “bean counter” perception and assert your leadership capabilities in your organization.

    1. Build a rapport and solid reputation. Executives, senior management and staff will appreciate your input, if you demonstrate your knowledge and expertise with the right attitude. In order to be thought of as a subject matter expert and be top-of-mind when colleagues seek advice, you need to build relationships and be open to conversations, questions, and ideas from others.
    2. Establish a support system. Maintaining positive relationships with your supervisor or manager is key to ensuring your voice is heard when you are not interacting with the higher level executives on a day-to-day basis. Once he or she understands the breadth of your knowledge, he or she may positively influence the future direction of your career. With your subject matter expertise, reputation and rapport to boost you, you may be asked to lead special projects, speak at leadership meetings or external conferences  or join a board or committee.
    3. Take Initiative. In my career, I’ve taken the opportunity to start a lot of projects from scratch. Doing so has allowed me to demonstrate my subject matter expertise within the company, and solidified my position as the go-to person for the accounting policies and implementation strategies related to these projects. As a result, I am often the logical choice to be entrusted to “press the buttons” to complete these projects.
    4. Stick to The Facts. When reporting, do not say things your clients or colleagues want to hear, instead, give them the actual accounting. And remember, this is a dialog; in your initial meetings with clients and colleagues, make certain that you get the full story behind the accounting. You can only give the accounting guidance related to the information you were originally provided.
    5. Be Open to Change. As accountants we tend to stick to the “tried and true” way of doing things. Even though “tried and true” may work, there are often better and more efficient methods for getting a job done. Share ideas with your colleagues and other organizations to see if there’s a procedure or standard they implement that you can too, and vice versa.

    Steve Rivera, CPA is the Senior Director of the Financial Compliance and Procedures Group at Johnson & Johnson.  Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson, Steve held positions at AT&T, Alcatel-Lucent (formerly Lucent Technologies), and Aventis Pharmaceuticals.  Steve received his Bachelors of Science in Accounting from St. John’s University. 




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