When I was 40: Learning leadership

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I believe leadership is founded on a sense of purpose and a commitment to your team. By that, I mean delivering passionate client service that relates on an individual level and is relevant to their needs. It’s a complicated process that is perfected with practice and dedication.

I was voted and was admitted as a partner in what was then M.R. Weiser & co. at the age of 33, a very proud moment, the first stage of partner life, responsible for serving clients and leading teams. By my late 30s, I was leading the firm’s Apparel/Fashion Retail Group.

This was a particularly interesting time because there were significant, fast-paced changes happening in the retail industry, so I found myself assisting clients in learning how to adapt, exploring alternatives, downsizing or upsizing to be prepared for the new, modern retail marketplace.

With every step on my partner journey requiring me to learn and develop leadership skills, it meant being more than “just an accountant.’”

As I moved into my 40s, I discovered that the value focus was on providing and participating with clients in strategic planning, along with the decision-making process. For example, helping clients handle family business-related matters like transitioning it to new generations or winding down the business. There needed to be a major emphasis on the human element in the business, now known as “emotional intelligence.” Unlike technical training, this wasn’t in our firm manuals.

I think everyone understands, at least broadly, what it means to lead a team or a practice – the idea of what being a leader is, even if the details are sometimes hazy. But what does it mean to lead clients? It starts by building trust, reinforced by consistency, continuity and stability, in learning and growing with the client’s ambitions and struggles along the way.

It’s about deeper understanding of the client’s business and industry, even though you’re not actually part of that industry -- providing objectivity aligned with that industry knowledge.

The focus must be on listening with the intent to help all the time. Whether that’s fixing a problem, or just assisting in identifying the strategies and resources required for success.

Working along with the other service providers for a business is a major value add, both in good and difficult times. As such, it eases the client’s business pressures. It’s especially useful to create connectivity so that the professional support network is backing their enterprise, and having the ability to expand the network to add further needed expertise. As service providers, we can help the client interact with others, building on our trusted relationship and expanding it to a broader group for a common cause.

What’s always driven me is enjoying the interaction with people and the interesting businesses they operate, which I’ve never been able to separate. It’s my passion, and I get deep satisfaction from feeling contributory, relied upon, and valued.

I found that same kind of satisfaction from serving the firm in leadership roles as I was privileged to grow with the firm in my leadership experience. After demonstrating the capability in leading a practice, I became the managing partner of the New York Office in my early 40s and, within a couple years, was elected by the partners to the firm’s Executive Committee.

As I continued to grow in my new role, I was fortunate to gain a lot of leadership training. Not only did I build leadership skills with the firm’s support, we forged communities of connected, talented leaders as the organization grew.

Mazars Group’s global training also supports leadership development in helping us deliver superior services seamlessly across many countries. One of the most valued benefits I’ve received in my career was being selected to participate in an international accredited executive MBA course through Mazars. It was many weeks over two years in many international cities.

Through the program, I made new friends, met leaders of countries, and interacted with international Group Executive Board members. It was difficult to integrate so many responsibilities at the time, but was so enriching and personally rewarding. It gave me the opportunity to learn a lot more about myself, helping prepare me for my next role, as CEO in my 50s … stay tuned!

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Practice management