Grow Your Firm

Leading During Uncertain Times

Gusto Editors  
Male leader discussing in glass meeting room surround by sticky notes

Do you want to learn how to lead your team, business, or clients effectively during uncertain times?

Economic uncertainty can hit at any time, causing economic repercussions dramatically affecting our day-to-day lives,  work lives, and financial wellbeing. During uncertain times, it’s essential for you to positively influence and lead your firm and small business clients toward financial security. 

Introduce your clients to payroll they’ll actually love.

Gusto, along with our partners at CPA Academy, hosted an informative webinar entitled “To Be an Extraordinary Leader in Extraordinary Times, Look Within.” You can watch the full webinar here

In addition to this article, Part Three, you can check out Part One and Part Two to learn about unlocking your full leadership potential and the importance of introspection.

In this post, executive life coach and former CPA Amber Setter will teach you all about leading during uncertain times, restructuring your internal operating system, and the difference between reactive and creative leadership. 

Traversing uncertain times

. Regardless of the crisis situation, as accountants, it’s crucial to stay vigilant and lead your clients through financially challenging times. These moments often require accountants to perform tasks beyond traditional accounting. During challenging times and beyond, it’s critical that you stay flexible and are willing to make difficult decisions: 

There’s a lack of state stability and predictability, and the environment demands you [to] react quickly. [There is] uncertainty, [and] there’s a lack of ability to foresee what major changes might come. So the environment requires you to take action without certainty. … Ever-changing regulations, disruptive technologies, working from home, all of these things have made things very different. And you are being asked to perform in an era with an unprecedented rate of change.

Amber Setter 

With the economic uncertainty and constant changes, accountants need to be willing to lead and make tough decisions for their firm and their clients. Small businesses require assistance from their accountants in navigating their unforeseen circumstances they encounter. Businesses need accountants’ financial expertise to apply for benefits like we saw with the Paycheck Protection Program loans. They may also need additional advisory services, like HR and payroll, that fall outside the accounting profession’s traditional services. 

Amber observed that we’re facing many new problems without clear answers both professionally and personally: 

Things are very unfamiliar. We’ve all never lived and led through an extraordinary time such as now. And the best course of action is very likely hard to even see or to distinguish because the problem really hasn’t existed before. So what we’re all being asked to do, whether it’s at work, or at home, or in our community, has fundamentally changed.

Amber Setter 

With the evolving changes of turbulent times, it’s important to build internal strength and resolve. Amber cited psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden in saying that sudden changes require new psychological demands: 

[Nathaniel Branden says] that these developments also create new demands on our psychological resources. And they ask us for greater capacity for self-management, looking within and knowing ourselves, our personal responsibility, and our self-direction.

Amber Setter 

The modern business landscape injects constant uncertainty, from technology advances to remote work, economic fluctuations, and government regulations, change is ever-present.  To handle challenges like these, we need to improve our ability to self-reflect and be self-aware. 

Female speaking with male colleague hold an ipad in front of her

Restructuring your internal operating system

When we engage in introspection and self-awareness, we can start to restructure and upgrade our internal selves. Amber cited author Bob Anderson in saying that the human mind is like an operating system: 

Bob Anderson says: ‘If we want higher-order performance, consciousness needs to be restructured.’ And a way that you can think about consciousness being restructured is our operating systems within ourselves. … [You have the] ability to upgrade your operating system on your phone, [and] you can actually do that in your level of awareness and your consciousness. 

Amber Setter 

The human brain is incredibly malleable, and if you take active steps to improve its functionality via introspection and self-awareness, you’ll unlock your potential to become an extraordinary leader:  

Research has mapped out [the] trajectory of adult development. So how consciousness structures itself one level of the mind and then restructures itself into the next higher-order structure of the mind. In the higher level of your operating system, you have enhanced capacity to lead through extraordinary times, and much more becomes possible and available to you.

Amber Setter 

Tapping into your mind’s full potential is critical for your success as a leader during uncertain times. Amber suggested that accountants sign up for Bob Anderson’s 360 tool to evaluate and enhance their leadership and inner strengths: 

One way that I start and work with clients in terms of helping them to distinguish where they’re at in their leadership effectiveness and getting to know the inner workings of themselves is to use the 360 tool that was created by Bob Anderson. So this tool is not about job performance. It’s about leading effectively, especially when it comes to extraordinary times.

Amber Setter 

Knowing and understanding yourself is invaluable when it comes to improving your mind and developing internal strength. If you’re not aware of your strengths, weaknesses, and what you need to change, you can’t positively lead others. When you upgrade your mind, you’ll gain the ability to become an extraordinary leader during uncertain times.

The difference between reactive and creative leadership 

side view of male and female colleague meeting at bottom of stairs to review something

When evaluating your abilities as a leader, it’s important to note the two main types of leaders—reactive and creative. Reactive leaders operate from a lower level of adult development and often feature negative qualities: 

The reactive-tendency leaders are those that are in compliance. They’re people-pleasing. They want to belong. They’d rather be accepted by others than … articulate what they really need and want. … There’s a lot of controlling tendencies that show up in the profession. Perfection[ism, for example], because you want to be able to rely on the data that you do. But when it comes to leading, when you’re being a perfectionist, it is ineffective. So that level of leadership is really reactive, unhealthy, and toxic. 

Amber Setter 

According to Amber, reactive leaders are often critical, arrogant, and controlling because they’re reacting from external circumstances rather than operating from a place of internal strength. They typically don’t think before they act, which results in ill-informed decisions and consequences.

When you engage in introspection and work on improving your level of consciousness, you can shift towards creative leadership

That’s a big adult development shift in [the] level of consciousness. … You restructure consciousness and have a higher operating system. You are in the creative tendencies domain. What do creative tendencies look like? Basically, you know who you are, [and] you know what’s right and true for you. … In addition to showing these qualities, you’re relating. You truly care for others, [and] you mentor them. There’s teamwork … no matter what’s going on externally. You bring balance, composure, integrity, and courage.

Amber Setter 

Creative leadership comes from a place of internal strength that’s not rooted in the external world. Extraordinary leaders develop their inner strength by engaging in introspection and being honest with themselves rather than conforming to others’ views. When you shift to a higher place of consciousness through reflection, you’ll be able to access your creative leadership abilities and become a more effective leader.

Introduce your clients to payroll they’ll actually love.

Amber recommended that accounting firms consider engaging in team coaching. Community is essential now more than ever with the isolation that has come with the pandemic, and team coaching is a great way to check in with your team. Your team may also need additional support in engaging in effective introspection and reaching a higher level of consciousness, and team coaching is a great way to promote personal growth and creative leadership within your firm. 

Learn more about leading during uncertain times

Make sure to check out Part One and Part Two of the webinar article series if you haven’t already so you can learn more about being an extraordinary leader and engaging in self-reflection. You can also watch the full webinar here

If you need additional assistance in becoming an effective leader, we recommend joining the Gusto partner program. Through Gusto, you’ll gain access to our People Advisory Certification program that will enable you to advise your clients on many people-based services, such as HR, payroll, and benefits. Your firm will also receive a seamless workflow with software integration and automated services so that you can focus on serving and advising your clients. If you’re ready to partner with Gusto and empower your firm while strengthening your leadership abilities, click here.

Updated: August 17, 2021

Gusto Editors
Gusto Editors
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