3 Pillars of Leadership for the CFO of the Future - IEDP
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3 Pillars of Leadership for the CFO of the Future

“Getting to CFO is 80% functional/technical and 20% leadership skills. Once in the CFO chair this equation is turned on its head.”


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Gone are the days when the responsibility of CFOs and senior finance executives ended with financial reporting, compliance, audits and presenting the annual accounts. CFOs today need to be able to see the ‘big picture’ and to play a key role in strategic capital allocation and corporate leadership decisions. An effective CFO should be able to lead with intellectual and emotional agility, and possess sophisticated decision-making, problem-solving and communication skills.

“Getting to CFO is 80% functional/technical and 20% leadership skills. Once in the CFO chair this equation is turned on its head.” says Brian MacDonald, CEO, The Hertz Corporation.

Yet in reality many CFOs remain bogged down by the daily tactical hassles of reporting and number-crunching, with little or no time for big-picture strategic thinking. A problem that is exacerbated by the ever increasing complexity attached to the conventional finance functions such as transaction processing, audits, risk management and reporting brought on by rapid technological change and increased access to data.

A new program at Rotman School of Management addresses the need for CFOs of the future to embrace a multidimensional role, to be strategic business partners to the CEO, work effectively with the board, deal with investors, manage people, interact effectively with a myriad of stakeholders, and drive strategic change.

The concept behind the Business Leadership for Finance Executives Program arose from conversations between Rotman, and Odgers Berndtson's CFO and Leadership Practices, as well as consultations with North America's leading CFOs, CEOs and audit chairs. The dialogue focused on the capabilities required for success in this highly complex function at this demanding time and identified three critical CFO success factors which they refer to as the Three Pillars of CFO Leadership™:

1. Leadership in the C-Suite: Developing self-mastery. Communication and influence; problem solving and decision making; leadership.

2. Strategic Agility and Business Acumen: Becoming a valued business partner to the CEO. Big picture thinking; client and stakeholder needs; competitive advantage.

3. Managing Key Stakeholder Relations: Shaping the relationships that determine success. Managing board relationships; dealing with the external financial community; managing auditors and regulators.


Mirroring the three pillars, Rotman’s Business Leadership for Finance Executives Program is designed to help participants assess and develop these three core capabilities of CFO success both within themselves and with their teams. It enables CFOs and senior finance professional preparing for the CFO role to step outside their day-to-day responsibilities for a period of five days and think deeply about the experiences, skills and capabilities essential to enhancing their effectiveness as senior finance leaders and members of the C-suite.

In a recent interview in IEDP Developing Leaders, Tiff Macklem, Dean of Rotman said that “Successful boards find time for longer term strategic thinking” and yet too often “The squeaky wheel gets the most oil”– the constant pressure from analysts and regulators attracts boardroom attention to the detriment of strategy. - Nowhere is this more relevant than in the case of the CFO.


Further Information

Business Leadership for Finance Executives Program

In this 3 minute video recent participants describe their experience and their key takeaways from the program:

Rotman School of Management is Canada’s leading business school and has Canada’s largest group of management faculty. It is home to some of the most innovative research institutes in the world

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