This issue of Generational Viewpoints features two individuals from Milligan and Co. (, a Philadelphia-based multi-office firm with 50 employees. Generation X partner Jovan Goldstein, born in 1975, and Baby Boomer firm founder and managing partner John Milligan, born in 1950, shared their views regarding the following question:"What are the most important skills you look for in your young and up-and-coming leaders?"


What makes a successful accounting firm partner who can lead a company into the next generation and beyond? While many in our profession might argue technical proficiency, it is my opinion that the best and most effective firm managers are those who have mastered something a bit more elusive: how to be a dynamic leader.

While there are many talents that aspiring young leaders should seek to cultivate, there are five in particular that will help poise them for future success:

Confidence. There is nothing more important than having confidence in one's actions, delivery, and decision-making ability. Before making any professional decision, young leaders should conduct enough due diligence and research to support their actions. Think strategically, act decisively, and never be afraid to make a mistake.

Technological know-how. Don't just learn technology; leverage it to the fullest. In doing so, young leaders will learn how to multi-task effectively and become a "go-to" resource for technical questions.

Good communication. Honing communication skills is the surest route to becoming a well-respected leader. While it is always important to hear what a client is saying and respond accordingly, it can be even more important to listen for what is not being said. Learn to read "between the lines."

Set (and exceed) expectations. The very best leaders set expectations with clients and staff up front, and reset them when necessary. Perfect the art of establishing expectations at the beginning of an engagement, monitoring progress during the engagement, and evaluating results against expectations at the end of the engagement.

Ensure the win-win. When leading others, always strive for a relationship in which both parties benefit. Not every employee can and should be motivated in the same way. The most respected leaders identify their employees' individual talents and maximize them whenever possible. In doing so, they begin to nurture and develop the next generation of their firm's leadership.

Young leaders should think of everyone on an even playing field, and work with a mentor to discover what sets them apart from the rest. Finally, and most important, they should strive to ensure that their actions are consistent with their words. Integrity breeds successful - and long-standing - leadership potential.


I don't remember the last time I opened a professional journal without seeing an article on the importance of soft skills. It's been suggested that for many professions, soft skills may be more important over the long term than technical skills. Good soft skills training won't re-invent you, but it will help you communicate clearly, deal effectively with clients and colleagues, and contribute to the success of your firm. I would strongly encourage emerging leaders to invest time in their soft skills.

In my opinion, leadership skills are different from soft skills, and are formed by both professional and personal experiences. Leadership skills are those that can motivate employees through trust, help them achieve their maximum potential, and foster a sense of partnership. Reaching goals and accomplishing tasks by influence, rather than authority, is the critical difference between leading and managing.

In an evolving and challenging business environment, I look for those skills that can generate positive long-term results, align goals to strategy, and take ownership of goals to achieve desired results. I look for the ability to embrace new ideas, rather than a reliance on what's worked in the past, particularly in a crisis. Leadership in times of uncertainty requires confronting situations and adapting to them.

I've had the opportunity to work with some truly great leaders, and while their styles were all unique, they had consistent qualities: integrity, persistence and balance.

Professional and personal integrity, which must match, are fundamental to motivating staff, outstanding teamwork, and client satisfaction. Integrity has been cited as the No. 1 motivational, mentoring and value principle. Leaders and companies that display a clear commitment to ethical conduct are bound to outperform. Clients want to do business with a company they can trust; quality employees want to work for a leader who has character.

Persistence is an offset to personal discouragement and has been called "applied luck." Persistence is carrying on with your plans through many failures. No leader obtains success without it.

Finally, I look for balance in a potential leader, with clear priorities for their professional and personal lives. The old proverb of "All work and no play" didn't come with a strict formula for life-work balance. Balance is deeply personal, and enables us to keep perspective. Without it, we become both bored and boring. AT

This column is facilitated and edited by Krista Remer, the Generation X consultant, and Jennifer Wilson, the Baby Boomer co-founder and partner of ConvergenceCoaching LLC (, a leadership and marketing coaching and training and development firm that specializes in helping CPA and IT firms achieve success. To have your firm’s generational viewpoints considered for a future Accounting Tomorrow column, e-mail us at

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access