How to move beyond financial expertise to strategic leadership: Grab a shovel

Photo copyright: suntipongchormali / 123RF stock photo

Note: The following post was written by Dr. Alan Patterson, a BLI thought leader and founder of Mentore, a consulting organization that focuses on aligning leadership, strategy, roles, and skill sets to major shifts in the business.

Patterson will explore these ideas in greater detail during a BLI webcast titled, “Leader Evolution: From Technical to Strategic Leadership.” The webcast is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 16. Get details and register here.


I’ll make this short and sweet. As an individual contributor, financial expertise and skill mastery set you apart from the pack. But advancement in your career, either as a financial manager or a high level financial expert requires something more, something different, something they don’t teach you in college.

Some call it soft skills.

Others call it building relationships.

But Daniel Goleman nailed it – emotional intelligence. It’s a different type of intelligence with a different set of skills with a different perspective developed for a different purpose.
Emotional intelligence is about insight and understanding people. Yes, that includes you, too. Knowing what is important to you is the first step in creating an appreciation for the perspectives of others. And it builds from there.

Understanding your impact on others, listening, influencing, communicating- these are essential, not optional, not nice to have, not take them or leave them. These are mandatory skills and behaviors for your career success.

Spoiler alert: If you don’t already know this, the world may not see things the way you do. It’s alarming, I know.

Being smart isn’t everything
Financial expertise makes you smart. That makes your mother very happy. But financial expertise with emotional intelligence makes you smarter. This makes a lot of people happy. To be smart, approachable, and available enables you to become person of influence. A leader. The ability to make things happen for the good. Your organization needs leadership, your leadership. Your business needs your leadership. So do our country and the world we live in.

Maybe you think because you’re in a profession where taking risks and asking for forgiveness aren’t allowed. Situations like skirting the law or violating rules or going to the casino to double the company’s pension plan – those aren’t allowed.

But taking responsibility to solve critical problems, volunteering for important projects, challenging the status quo, speaking up – that’s what I’m talking about.

Look in the mirror
Every role has leadership responsibilities. Leaders are those individuals who step up and lean into the murky areas of indecision and inaction. They ask questions. They listen. They empathize. They challenge. They engage. They take action. That’s what an understanding of people coupled with the ability to reason, to solve problems, and to give a damn can do.

Financial leaders know there’s a lot of work to do. They know that if they wait for somebody else to figure it out and tell them what to do, they wait in vain.

They find their place and dig in.

To be clear …

There is no “they.” The “they” is us. You and me.

You with me on this?


Need a shovel?

Let’s get to work.


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