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Not a natural born leader? 5 tips can boost your skills

Horn_LaceySome say that leaders are born. Others believe that leaders are made. I’m definitely a fan of the hybrid approach. There have been moments in my career where I’ve harnessed some inherent abilities and cultivated others to move up the ladder. Even from a young age, I knew I wanted to make a significant contribution to my community. But, to be effective as the Treasurer of the Cherokee Nation, I’ve had to draw from personal and professional experiences and build my confidence. You can do it too. Here are some tips.

  1. Lead by observation. Closely observing a respected leader’s approach to strategy is key to developing your own. I became a math hound from watching and helping my grandmother run her business. That’s really where my leadership training began. Later, when I started working for the Cherokee Nation, I had a terrific mentor who took me under his wing and allowed me to be involved in decision-making for the tribe. By watching how others lead, you can gain their 30,000-foot view while simultaneously working with your boots on the ground.
  1. Lead by listening. Listening to and understanding the perspectives of others can help you determine how to tackle new challenges and gain the trust of your colleagues. When I became Treasurer of the Cherokee Nation, I was suddenly managing an experienced team of 98 people. I had to prove myself to everyone, and I did that by listening to them. I asked them what they felt the tribe’s opportunities and challenges were. Also, I wanted to hear about the ideas they had and what they would focus on if they were in my position. My team felt heard and saw firsthand my eagerness to put their thoughts and ideas into action.
  1. Lead by taking on new responsibilities. You don’t have to have a leadership title to build your confidence and leadership skills. All you have to do is raise your hand. Whether you’re offering to manage a work project, volunteering for the board of a nonprofit organization or taking a leadership role at your alumni association, step up. This is how you learn and demonstrate to others that you’re willing to lead.
  1. Lead by learning. Any professional will tell you that you learn new things every day, CPE-required or not. Take the audit, for instance. By performing an audit, you learn about planning, project management and how to form an argument. It’s a proving ground for many CPAs as they build real-world leadership qualities, which was certainly the case for me. I pass the spirit of constant learning on to my staff by encouraging them to take advantage of opportunities to broaden their horizons on a variety of topics, from Standards for Excellence to public speaking. I’m a big believer in demonstrating the desire to learn; it’s a leadership quality all on its own.
  1. Lead from the heart. My love for the Cherokee people is what drives me to find creative solutions to our problems. So every day, I use my head to achieve the goals of my heart. Don’t be afraid to reveal your passion and how it drives you. You’ll foster stronger relationships with colleagues, clients, business partners and staff and they’ll respect knowing what motivates you.

No matter where you are in your career, you can always use the AICPA’s professional education resources to become a more confident leader. The AICPA Diversity and Inclusion team offers CPE through its D&I webcasts, a professional development series. The next webcast “Global diversity: driving innovation through inclusion” will be held in January.

Lacey A. Horn, CPA/CGMA, is Treasurer of the Cherokee Nation. She oversees all financial functions of the tribal government, including the tribe’s $1 billion annual budget including the Cherokee Nation’s tribal health care system, which is the largest of its kind. In 2015, Ms. Horn was appointed to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Tribal Advisory Committee. The Native American Finance Officers Association selected Ms. Horn as “Executive of the Year” in 2014 and she appeared in Oklahoma Magazine’s 40 Under 40 list in 2012. She has two degrees from SMU and was named SMU’s 2017 “Emerging Leader.”

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