A few years ago, I attended the Winning is Everything conference put on by the Advisory Board in Las Vegas, NV. A fitting place for a conference about winning! There are so many topics to consider when choosing a conference, and I end up attending several a year to stay up with professional trends, pronouncements and the latest in technology for my profession: Accounting, of course. Though truth be told, I don’t consider myself much of an accountant in the traditional sense. Not to worry, I’m not having a crisis of identity. I just believe that there is a better description out there for what I do and what we do as a firm.
Invariably, many of these conferences, as an overarching theme, come back to one word: Leadership. All the ways we need and have to have leadership to propel our organizations to the next level, what really defines leadership and how without it your organization won’t just suck; your organization will simply dry up and die. As this theme is presented over and over again, we all nod our heads in agreement then go back home in the fray, yet don’t make any significant change to our habits. That’s right, I said “habits!” We get in a routine of doing things a certain way. The way that is comfortable or has the least amount of pain associated with whatever it is we find ourselves up against. When I go to these conferences or when you go to these conferences or read the latest book on leadership we hear how George Washington had it, how Abraham Lincoln had it, how Kennedy had it and how we aren’t going to measure up unless we make some serious changes to the way we do things. Ok, fine. I’ve read so many books on leadership that it would take 3 pages just to list them all. And, I’ve heard just as many speakers on the subject.
At this particular conference I had the pleasure of listening to Pat Williams. If you don’t know who Pat Williams is, he is the founder of the Orlando Magic. He is also a truly engaging speaker and history buff. His keynote was on, what? You guessed it…leadership. I’ll admit, when he started his presentation I had a personal “oh boy, not again” moment. But, as I said, he is truly engaging and his message really resonated with me. I left with a sense of what I am doing well and what I should be working on as the leader of our firm and the leader for many of our clients out there who are looking for leadership, relationship and creativity from me. Disclaimer: LRC or Leadership, Relationship, and Creativity as it relates to a business relationship is derived out of the Strategic Coach program, the top entrepreneurial program in the world. Pat’s talk on leadership was based upon seven principals to be a true leader or, as Jim Collins in Good to Great defines it, “A Level 5 Leader.” His talk of course is based on a book he’s written, so if you want more detail into the subsections of the seven principals, I encourage you to go check out his book on Amazon, or at your favorite book store.
Pat’s principals are as follows:
- Vision – A true leader must have vision of what could be, and is able to see in vivid color a vision for the future of whomever or whatever they are leading. You cannot be a leader without vision of where you want to go.
- Communication of the Vision – If you don’t know how to communicate your vision, or how to communicate it so people can understand the vision, then the vision is worthless.
- People Skills – You can’t do it all yourself. You need people to work with you to realize your vision; someone to lead. The 4 primary people skills you need are: to be available, to have good listening skills, to empower people, and have the ability to delegate.
- Character – Some may believe this one is overplayed, but I don’t believe so. According to Pat, and almost every other leadership guru I’ve ever heard, you must have honesty, integrity, responsibility, and humility. Maybe described in slightly different variations, but ultimately the same.
- Competence – You must be competent in what you are doing. This requires having problem solving skills, the ability to build teams, the ability to sell, and a commitment to being a life-long learner.
- Boldness – Enough said on this one.
- A Serving Heart– Regardless of who you lead, ultimately leadership comes down to service. It is you who are serving the people you work with, while you serve each other across many levels of your organization. Having that serving heart is the piece that will build a legacy of your leadership in whatever capacity you are serving as a leader. Don’t think you have to be an executive or a CEO to use and demonstrate these qualities. You can be a leader in any role you are occupying within an organization. All leaders are made. You and I are no exception.
Many thanks to the Advisory Board for putting on this conference year after year. It is truly a great conference. Not because I won the grand prize again that year, but because of the resources and insights you bring together in one venue. Though winning the prize was pretty darn nice!
Jason Lawhorn, CPA, CITP, CVA, MAcc