Stepping Up to the ‘Big Picture’: From Controller to CFO

Good leaders are usually made, not born. Sure, there’s the bred-in-the-bone verve, the judgment that’s often instilled at an early age, the outgoing and fearless personality.

But according to a recent survey of finance professionals, a leader’s most highly-regarded traits are carefully cultivated. He or she is a visionary. Principled. Caring. Motivated. Credible and inspiring.

For many professionals, the ultimate expression of leadership is the office of the chief financial officer, and they plan for that role in their future. What’s the biggest difference? (Other than the paycheck, of course.) Well, whereas the CFO is responsible for the “big picture” and is outward-focused, the Controller is more inward and historically focused, says Russ Palmer, longtime CEO and dean of Wharton School of Business.

The CFO is a strategic business partner who helps raise capital and manages the care and feeding of internal and external stakeholders. A great CFO also has what Palmer calls the “Likeability Factor.”

The two jobs have a lot of overlap, of course. Both incorporate the same general fields of study: managerial and financial accounting, federal, state and local taxes, regulatory compliance.

But also expected from the CFO are deep analytical skills, a dynamic presence and optimistic spirit. So how do you learn to be a motivator? To develop open and effective lines of communication both inside and outside the company? To know instinctively what your company needs?

According to CPE Link instructor, Miles Hutchinson, CPA, the CFO’s role in modern business management is moving away from simply providing information to management towards acting as a key consultant and decision maker in an organization.

Are you ready to take on this role?

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by Sue Anderson - Based on 30 years of experience in continuing education for accountants. Currently program director for online CPE provider, CPE Link. Formerly with the California CPA Education Foundation managing key operational areas including marketing, program development, and distance learning.

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