Engaging employees in financial leadership: a survey of strategies.

Author:Corbett, Drew


A poll of your colleagues about the definition of leadership would likely get a variety of answers, including setting a good example, being accountable, motivating your team, and positioning people to be successful. We can all likely agree, though, that strong leadership is needed in a professional environment. To that end, this article will focus on an important strategy for developing leaders in the finance profession: establishing a foundation for leadership within individual finance departments and creating an environment where motivation and engagement thrive.


Leadership doesn't develop and thrive without the right foundation. For the finance officer, this means building and developing your team and creating the right environment for team members. The former starts with hiring the right people. To determine the essential technical skills, start by going through your job specifications. Separate knowledge that a candidate must have on day one from what can be developed on the job over time--this will not only clarify what you're looking for but also potentially broaden your pool of candidates, allowing you to focus more on the concept of "fit." Finance professionals tend to lean toward hiring almost entirely for technical skills, but fit is equally important--a potential employee should fit in well with the culture, norms, and expectations of your department.

But it's rare to build a team from the ground up. To develop a team with existing personnel, you'll need to focus relentlessly on establishing, modeling, communicating, and supporting the culture, norms, and expectations that you, as a leader, want as the foundation of the department. This is no easy task. It requires commitment, time, and focus to articulate your vision of the desired departmental culture, model the behavior you expects, and lead in a way that fosters leadership. Seeing it through will pay off immensely, however, when you have created an environment where your employees are motivated, engaged, and developing as leaders.


Successfully establishing a leadership foundation also requires you to understand your organization's existing leadership system, and how well it aligns with the factors that motivate employees and keep them engaged. Research by Rensis Likert in the 1960s defined four leadership systems: exploitative authoritative, benevolent authoritative, consultative, and participative. (1)

"Exploitative authoritative" is as bad as it sounds--this style of leadership is a relic of the early to mid-20th century, giving upper management all the responsibility and putting no trust or confidence...

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