I recently facilitated a panel discussion with three managing partners. The topic of discussion was around developing future leaders. They also shared best practices around creating a culture focused on creating value for clients, and not just what we ordinarily think of as value. True value and deep relationships that come from a focus on understanding the human emotions and business challenges of their clients is what we discussed. So, what does this have to do with developing future leaders? In my mind, it has everything to do with it.

The room was filled with emerging leaders with their interests peaked on the topic of what these managing partners wanted to see from them. They were thirsty for knowledge regarding the skills that were expected of them in order for them to be seen as successful leaders in their firms. It is one thing to read books about leadership and quite another to hear the thoughtful responses to their questions from firm leaders who are successfully growing their practices and grooming the next generation at the same time.

One question I asked was: “What are these partners looking for in emerging leaders?” The responses were: High energy, coach-ability and talent who are passionate about serving their clients. “It is hard to pinpoint,” said one managing partner. “You just know when someone has what it takes to be a strong leader. You can see it in them.” Others agreed that strong leadership is more than just technical skills (although they are important.) It encompasses some passion, energy and focus on improving that most great leaders possess. This can be detected very early on.

Another question was: “How would they recommend teaching future leaders how to become rock solid advisors to their clients?” The responses were similar and came down to this: “Demand that the current leaders allow them to shadow them on top client meetings. They then begin to participate in these meetings by asking thought provoking questions and coming back to the firm leader with suggestions for the client.” When one managing partner was asked how we would handle it if his partners were acting in a protective way and never in favor of taking along others to their client meeting. He stated, “I would figuratively kick their butts. This is not acceptable.” Well said, managing partner. What better experience can someone get than actually “doing”? The more hands our professionals are, the more opportunities they have for learning.

These managing partners understood the importance of not only having the passion and raw material from the emerging leaders but also having the current leaders take responsibility for assisting in the development of the team.


About the author 

Angie Grissom serves as the President of The Rainmaker Companies, a leading provider of alliance, consulting, and training services exclusively for the Accounting Profession.She is passionate about the current and future leadership in the accounting industry and pushes firm leaders to build firms that empower people and have strong future leaders and unmatched client service. She encourages leaders to think outside the box and have a focus on getting results. 

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