I know a great CFO, who I used to work with and who is now very successful in his career. I’m convinced he succeeded because he has the highest emotional intelligence of just about anyone I know and he’s a very caring person. Recently, he was asked by his company to write about leadership. This is well worth a five minute read:
“Maybe the best way to think about good leadership is to look at examples that have stood out for me over the course of my career. I’m sure all of you have some good and maybe not so good examples as well, but the following events stuck out in my mind as behaviors for me to learn from:
• I was walking to a client presentation with a top Partner at the firm I used to work for and we were late. I tend to walk fast, but this partner walks even faster. She was on a mission to sell services, something that she excelled at and I was keen at learning how to do as well.
As we crossed the street in busy downtown San Francisco, we saw a 3 year old boy crying and no one attending to him. To my amazement, (I was thinking surely someone else was around who could help; it need not be us), the Partner stopped and asked the little boy what was the matter. We learned that he could not find his mommy. We helped the little boy look for his mother and ultimately took him to a police station. We missed our sales pitch. In all the years I had worked for this slave-driving Partner, I had never seen this side of her until that moment. Leaders have to be real, caring people – we need them to be.
• I worked at a start up for awhile. It was fun raising money but it was no fun running out of money. I used my best CFO skills to try to make things go as far as possible. Ultimately, it was inevitable, we had to lay off half of our workforce (50 people) at a time when most of them would struggle finding new jobs. The layoff day was one of the worst days of my career. Our CEO also wretched the decision and personally gave the news and exit interview to every single employee that was let go. After it was over, he asked me to stop paying him a salary. He wasn’t particularly wealthy and had a family to support, but he knew it was the right thing to do and would maybe help keep the employees that were left. Leaders aren’t afraid to face bad news and make sacrifices (just like everyone else).
• I often think with my financial brain. I believe that all situations can be boiled down to the most salient point of dollars and cents. It’s what I do and it is logic that is difficult to ignore if presented properly. I have a good friend that runs sales for a medium sized company. We often have healthy debates about how to run companies smartly. I always think I have the best points, but he is quick to pull the “customer” card. Without customers, there is nothing. Leaders need followers and customers are the best kind of followers. Without them there is nothing to lead.”
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