Working with hundreds of companies and accounting firms, it is always amazing how many leaders are comfortable letting their firms wander down the road with no defined and agreed upon destination – no shared vision of the future. Even a bit more amazing is when leadership invests the time and resources to develop strategies at annual partner retreats only to allow the lack of accountability to stifle any real progress towards implementation. When firm leadership reflects a lack of commitment to developing a strategic plan and not leading the execution of strategy when a strategic plan is developed, that is a failure of leadership.What is the role of the firm leader in developing a sound strategic plan and providing the strategic leadership to achieve successful execution of each strategy? Let start with what strategic leadership is not:
Presented below are the obvious but not easy things that a managing partner needs to do in today’s world of public accounting to be viewed as an effective leader who sits on top of a firm that is not in denial:
Too many leaders and partners see strategy as a waste because in too many firms, retreat after retreat, strategies are discussed and agreed to and then post-retreat – nothing ever changes. Firm leaders and partners would tell me time after time that they just have no energy for more strategies since nothing ever changes. In the end, strategy just becomes wishful thinking. That is a failure of leadership.In my soon to be published book – “Leading from The Edge – Creating a Standout, High-Performing Firm”, I posit that a great Edge leader has the ability to motivate, inspire and focus partners on a shared aspirational future vision driven by a strategic plan built on shared responsibility for the successful execution of each strategy. Seems straight forward so why is it so difficult. One reason is the strategic planning process itself and the other, much more critical, is the lack of strategic leadership. Let’s start with a question - why do firms spend more time and resources on the annual budget than a roadmap (strategic plan) to create a transformative firm driven to exceptionalism?
It is one of the firm leader’s key responsibilities to address the above 5 blockages if there will be any success in strategic planning and execution. So, what steps should leadership take?