After having spent thousands of hours reading, understanding and practicing the concepts of accountancy, law and taxes; you finally become a Chartered Accountant. You have waited for this moment ever since you were in school. This is your crowning glory, your proudest accomplishment.
You have finally arrived in life!
A glorious career is now within reach. All you have to do is to crack an interview and land a job with a good organization and you are bound to succeed. Afterall, you cleared the tough and highly competitive exams to become a Chartered Accountant, everything else should be much easier.
Twenty years ago, I was a young Chartered Accountant who was in exactly this position. I was feeling very proud of myself for having cleared the CA Final exam at the age of 21 and I believed that my career was about to take off and I will continue to make great progress.
However, I was wrong.
The real world of business and corporate organizations is very different from the books that we read and study as students. In the real world of business, we have to compete with many other smart and highly skilled people to build a successful career. The sooner we realize that success in business and career requires us to be an ‘all-rounder’; the better it is.
In my career of more than twenty years, I have worked with some of the most well-known organizations of the world such as – KPMG, Google and American Express. In each of these organizations, I learnt that success was a factor of my functional and technical skills combined with leadership skills. I also noticed that many of my colleagues who were technically very skilled and sharp could not make good progress simply because they did not understand the need to develop themselves as leaders.
Unlike the technical and functional subjects that we learn and clear to become a CA, leadership skills can not be learnt from a book and mastered. Leadership is all about
- Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses
- Learning from real world examples
- Being willing to bring about changes in your behaviour
But most importantly, leadership skills development is an infinite, never ending road – you have to get better every single day.
Besides, even the best amongst us fail.
I remember I was terrible at speaking English and was a very shy and introverted person when I started my career. At the Big 4 firm where I was then working, I was a misfit. Everyone else around me was much smarter and I really struggled to make a mark. Rather than giving up and accepting myself as a failure, I decided to take charge of my own career. I took up the challenge head-on and started learning and practicing English speaking and public speaking. I remember I failed many times, but I never gave up.
It is because of the effort that I made in that early stage of my career that I can now proclaim to be a leadership coach,motivational speaker and author of two books!
As young students and professionals, I want you to realize that your learning journey never gets over, it certainly does not get over after you have become a CA. To succeed in the real world, you will have to develop a relentless hunger for new skills and capabilities. Also, you have to realize that the organizations are becoming more and more global, hence the expectation is that we as professionals should demonstrate leadership and communication skills that will work in varied environments.
So, what are these leadership skills that I am talking about?
I divide leadership skills in four major segments:
Communicating with Impact – Interview skills, public speaking, story-telling, body language, effective meetings, assertiveness, telephone and video communication, email writing
Interpersonal Leadership – Teamwork, leading without authority, giving and taking feedback, Managing conflicts
Organizational Agility – Time management, adaptability and flexibility, creative and critical thinking, managing stress, problem solving
Personal Excellence – Workplace etiquette, executive presence, personal leadership style, career management, goal setting, emotional intelligence
I have seen many young finance professionals who may be excellent when it comes to knowledge of the subject but are unable to make any progress in their career because they can’t think and act like a leader. A lot of these youngsters have started believing that the world is unfair towards them and there is nothing else that they can do.
Not accepting the responsibility for your career is a major mistake.
I train and coach thousands of young people and I can say with complete confidence that ANYONE can get better at leadership skills, if only they learn and practice.
I often get asked to share some ‘easy tips’ to get better. While nothing of great value comes easy, I can surely share some tips that will help you make improvement:
- Devote at least 30 minutes each day to sharpen your leadership skills – read a book, watch videos, write an article
- Observe successful leaders – you will learn a great deal by simply observing how they behave and carry themselves
- Find someone who can help you – a senior, a friend or a coach who can guide you, give you feedback and help you get better
Finally, I will end by saying that the earlier you start, the better it is. Do not wait to have the same experiences that I had at the big 4 firm in my early career, you need to start learning and practicing leadership skills right now.
I wish you great success and a lot of happiness in your life and career!
Read the full story of Abhinav Goel here!