Do you practice conscious leadership within your accounting firm?

Practicing self-awareness in leadership is crucial for expanding your accounting firm, and it’s also vital for optimizing your ability to serve your clients. 

Here at Gusto, we aim to empower accounting professionals and equip them with invaluable tools and knowledge to become even more helpful. That’s why we, along with our partners at CPA Academy, hosted an informative webinar all about practicing consciousness within your accounting firm. We presented the webinar titled, “CPA Performance Begins with Consciousness,” and you can watch the entire presentation here.

In this article, we’ll share helpful insights from Amber Setter, an executive coach and inactive CPA. You’ll learn all about practicing conscious leadership, developing self-awareness, and the qualities of an effective and self-aware leader. 

Practicing conscious leadership

Developing self-awareness is critical for succeeding as a leader in the accounting profession, and it’s also important for improving your accounting performance. Although people often focus on their external lives in the accounting profession, our internal lives dramatically impact our performances. You can tap into your internal life and bring more self-awareness to your beliefs and the way your mind operates in order to improve your ability to serve your clients and lead your firm. Amber observed that you can improve your accounting performance by bringing more consciousness to your internal life:

“The deeper and more intimately I worked with people, the more I came to realize that [work performance is determined] … [by] the things that go on in a human, about who they believe themselves to be, [and] what they want to really do with their lives. All of that deeper work is what creates a transformational result and also helps people achieve external results much faster.”

Amber Setter

When you bring self-awareness to your inner life, you can make external changes and improve your accounting and leadership skills. Your recurring thoughts and emotions largely determine your inner life, which then manifests into unconscious patterns. 

Leadership team review the teams self awareness

“The things hidden below the surface include one’s beliefs, fears, feelings, hopes, and expectations. The deeper you go, much of it becomes hardwired and even driven by unconscious patterns of thinking and feeling. To uncover what’s in the way of optimal performance, the place to look is deep within yourself. … Once the unconscious becomes conscious, a person has a choice about their action. They can see what drives their behavior and consciously choose new behaviors that will produce a much greater result.”

Amber Setter

When you develop more self-awareness around your internal life, you can gain more control over yourself. You can change your behavior because you’re aware of the underlying reasons for your patterns. For example, if you’re prone to unhealthy perfectionism, that could be a result of anxiety around your work performance. When you identify the root causes of your internal conflict, you can eventually move past your pattern of anxious thinking to become a more skilled accountant and leader:

“When your mind … [isn’t facing] these unhealthy patterns of thinking, … your mind is freed up, [and] your energy is freed up to retain a lot more information and see much further into the future. This ultimately enhances your leadership effectiveness.”

Amber Setter

Improving your ability to serve your clients and lead your firm revolves around more than your external performance—you need to practice consciousness and bring self-awareness to your internal life in order to enhance your work performance.

Developing self-awareness in leadership and accounting

Growing in your ability to bring conscious awareness to your inner life will improve your accounting performance and help you sharpen your leadership skills. Contrary to popular belief, people continue developing after reaching adulthood. Amber discussed the theory behind adult development and how it impacts your external performance:

“Human beings continue to develop and grow psychologically, and this growth is what we refer to as ‘adult development.’ … When [you] move psychologically and grow from one level to the next, know that as you grow, you’re going to take on greater responsibility for your own thinking and feeling. … You begin to see that you are the ultimate source of your own results.”

Amber Setter

When you continue developing psychologically, you can bring awareness to your life and take more personal responsibility. People mature at different rates, so someone with more accounting experience may not necessarily be psychologically developed well enough to lead their firm. When you grow to the point where you look inward and become self-aware, you can bring more consciousness to what you want. You gain a sense of internal peace by self-authoring your path, and you improve your leadership abilities in the process.

By looking within, one begins to realize that they have thoughts that have shaped where they’ve been headed. … When energy is no longer wasted on waging an internal war with oneself about what they’re doing with their life, there’s more mental capacity to take on more information and experience less stress.”

Amber Setter
Man looking out the window holding his glasses thinking about self-awareness

When you emphasize internal development, you shift toward feeling that you’re in more control over your life. If a problem or obstacle emerges, you maintain control and view the obstacle as an opportunity. This quality also helps you become a better leader because you hold yourself and others accountable for their work:

“Somebody who has a self-authoring mind and [is] going for a goal and it doesn’t work out the way that they hope, they don’t just shut down and get mad when there’s [an obstacle]. … What might be perceived as an obstacle by others is interpreted to be an opportunity. … In an organizational leadership role, they hold everyone responsible.”

Amber Setter

To become an effective leader within the accounting profession, you need to psychologically develop to the point where you practice consciousness and develop a self-actualizing mentality. You determine what you want and become the author of your own path, and you don’t allow setbacks to stop you from reaching your goals. 

Qualities of a self-aware leader 

A critical part of becoming an effective leader within your firm is bringing consciousness to your emotions. You can also view leadership as an opportunity to grow rather than merely an obligation. Self-aware leaders continue developing as they lead:

“[Self-aware leaders] have learned how to manage those emotional triggers that might have somebody react in situations. … They’re leading to learn. … We’re looking at a leader who is leading because they enjoy it, and they like to learn. They see it as a pursuit [and] as a craft.”

Amber Setter

When looking to improve your performance as an accountant and a leader, you need to self-actualize your path and construct your journey based on your imagination.

“[Effective leaders are] looking within. They’re saying, ‘Okay. What do my people need? What is my imagination telling me the world is going to need in the future that doesn’t exist today?’ They can envision something that’s not even manifested yet. … Awareness of self, deeper awareness of others, [and] deeper awareness of humanity really unlocks the fullest potential for performance.”

Amber Setter

Developing a deeper understanding of oneself and humanity is crucial for improving your accounting and leadership skills. You should also consider approaching your accounting leadership abilities from a place of creativity rather than reaction. Amber observed that people often operate cautiously within the accounting profession, but effective accounting leaders guide their firms from a place of creativity and vision. They continue developing in their leadership abilities rather than reacting to fear and external circumstances. 

In addition to leading from a place of creativity, accountants should also develop the ability to let go of harsh self-scrutiny:

“Stop wasting energy on managing your insecurities. A lot of times I work with leaders, and they’re very critical of themselves. They have a very critical inner voice that has made them really good at what they do, but there’s no internal happiness. … Give yourself some grace, … self-authorize a little bit more, and ask yourself what you really need.”

Amber Setter

When you practice consciousness and let go of your harsh inner critic, you can focus on your needs and authoring your accounting path. You can concentrate on improving your ability to serve your clients and lead your firm from a place of creativity rather than fear and self-criticism. 

Learn more about becoming a self-aware accountant

Practicing self-awareness is critical for your leadership development and your effectiveness as an accountant. You can become a more conscious leader and accountant by looking internally and becoming the author of your own life. Effective accounting leaders approach their decisions from a place of creativity rather than fear, and they use their leadership opportunities as an avenue for personal growth.

We’re incredibly fortunate to have had Amber Setter host this informative webinar. If you want to learn even more about developing self-awareness, you can watch the full webinar here

Are you looking to improve your ability to serve your clients? Consider partnering with Gusto! Gusto empowers small businesses and accountants to promote a better professional and personal life. We make payroll and benefits incredibly simple, and we even automatically file and send payroll taxes for businesses under 100 employees. Gusto can help you expand your accounting firm while also offering you valuable client insights. Plus, you even receive a free payroll subscription for your firm. If you’re ready to learn more, visit our Gusto for accountants page

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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