It's unfortunate that they do not teach a leadership course in business school. As accountants, we know tax law and accounting pronouncements, but what do we learn about leadership?

Just reading this article won't make you a leader. This article is meant to help partners who have been around for awhile,find themselves in leadership positions within their firms, and are struggling to get followers.

Here are eight action steps you can take to become a better leader in 2010.

1. Leaders know themselves. If you don't know yourself, how will be you able to understand and know others? Take some time to get to know what you are like as a person. You can ask your spouse for a really honest answer or you can ask trusted business clients and acquaintances who will give you honest feedback. Your fellow partners may not be totally honest. The acid test is: "Would you work for you?"

2. Leaders are secure with themselves, not full of themselves. True leaders know that they don't know everything and they surround themselves with knowledgeable people who can help them succeed. Firm leadership is a team sport.

3. Leaders know how to communicate. Great leaders are good communicators. Think of Winston Churchill, FDR, JFK, Ronald Reagan and most recently President Obama. Leaders communicate openly and honestly. They constantly communicate their vision and their thoughts about the practice to everyone in the firm.

4. Leaders aren't afraid to serve others. Accounting is a service business. Income is made by satisfying the needs of clients with the proper service and pricing it accordingly. As leaders, we also need to satisfy the needs of our partners and employees. Conducting employee and partner surveys will identify the unmet needs in your firm.

5. Leaders have a vision of the future. Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 inspired millions of people throughout America. While your vision of the firm's future may not motivate as many people, it needs to have the same affect on your people.

6. Leaders are rarely satisfied or rest. Leaders don't rest on their laurels. They realize that there might be better ways of doing things, better opportunities, better results, etc. No matter how good the firm and its people are, they can always improve client service, business processes, marketing and sales activities, and individual competencies.

7. Leaders have a sense of urgency. With so much to be done, leaders need to create real urgency. This does not mean a chaotic environment, but one that encourages partners and staff not to procrastinate. Just think how contagious this could become in your firm. Look around the firm. What degree of urgency do you see?

8. Leaders have followers. It is often said that you can't be a leader unless you have followers. Think of Alexander the Great, Christ, Martin Luther King and Mohammed. All of them had followers who believed in their teachings or their visions. How committed are your partners and your staff to following you?

Start off the New Year with these steps and I guarantee that you will see better results by the end of the year. Become the leader you were meant to be!

August Aquila ( is a consultant to the accounting profession specializing in partnership issues, mergers and acquisitions, compensation plans, and succession planning. Reach him at (952) 930-1295 or

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