Grow Your Firm

Unleashing Your Leadership Potential

Gusto Editors  
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Do you want to unlock your full leadership abilities?

Becoming an extraordinary leader is critical for your firm and your clients. Your clients need guidance during difficult times, so it’s important to develop internal strength and confidence to help them traverse chaotic circumstances. 

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Gusto, along with our partners at CPA Academy, delivered a great webinar featuring the coaching expertise of Amber Setter titled “To Be an Extraordinary Leader in Extraordinary Times, Look Within.” You can watch the full webinar here

In addition to this article, Part Two, be sure to check out Part One and Part Three of this webinar series. Part One covers the definition of exceptional leadership and details the importance of self-reflection, and Part Three covers how to be an effective leader in uncertain times. 

In this post, executive life coach Amber Setter shares practical guidance about the importance of developing your internal self, how your inner self affects your leadership and work performance, and how consciousness impacts your performance. 

Developing your inner self 

When developing your leadership abilities, it’s essential to build your inner self rather than focus exclusively on external things. Your internal development directly affects the decisions you make in your life:

I have outer world action[s] or things I need to do, [like] decisions I need to make on behalf of my daughter. But to do those, I’m not asking other parents—I’m looking within. Because my daughter’s unique and our parenting styles are unique. … Your clients are unique, [and] your colleagues are unique. How you relate to them and build relationships is unique to you.

Amber Setter

You need to look internally to make unique decisions. No one else has your individual clients and firm, so you need to develop your internal self to make external decisions about your particular business. 

Amber observed that external success does not always equate to internal success. Someone may develop their career, but that doesn’t mean that they’re finding inner fulfillment. 

Three male colleagues standing together looking at a device

While I can easily say my clients reach those external achievements that they want, those outer gained metrics, what I can’t tell you is that outward success always equates to inner transformation. … If we just look at the definition [of transformation], it’s about causing a marked change in someone or something. And it means really to make a thorough or dramatic change in form, appearance, or character. A promotion, a new job title—that’s not necessarily a dramatic change in one’s character.

Amber Setter

Many people within accounting and other professional fields spend most of their efforts developing their external lives without transforming internally. To become an extraordinary leader, you need to develop your internal self through introspection and reflection: 

In the development of a leader, especially in extraordinary times, I believe there’s really [a] transformation when someone’s internal landscape shifts and changes. … They’re introspecting; they’re reflecting. They’re thinking [about] what really matters to [them]. … And they’re getting ready to become something different. … Not only did they have the best external results, but they had the best internal results in the form of happiness and feeling fulfilled and rewarded. And to be steady no matter what was going on outside of them.

Amber Setter

Your inner transformation is crucial for your development as an extraordinary leader. When you internally transform and find happiness and fulfillment that’s separate from your external results, you’ll develop internal strength that will directly impact your ability to lead and positively influence others. And this applies in both your professional and personal lives. 

How your inner self affects your leadership and work performance

Your internal self is built around your conscious and unconscious thoughts—it drives your actions and can also prevent you from taking action. When you’re in the process of developing your accounting career, it’s crucial to develop your internal self through introspection in order to build up your confidence. 

Accounting is a profession driven by rewarding intelligence. Accountants advance their careers through their intelligence and exceptional performance, which can lead to accountants experiencing anxiety around their intellect, even as they advance their careers. 

‘Am I smart enough?’… This fear loves to stick with you as you travel in your path because accountants are rewarded for being smart, right? So the smarter you are, the higher you bill, the more you earn. If you let this fear of ‘Am I smart enough?’ constantly run your outer game, you’re going to position yourself as an expert and receive recognition, praise, and promotion, but internally, your inner voice is only reminding you that you’re not smart enough.

Amber Setter

Feeling that you’re not smart enough while also advancing your career will lead you to imposter syndrome. You might perform well in your external life, but you won’t feel like you’ve earned your accomplishments if you continue doubting yourself. Doubting yourself drains your energy and will prohibit you from leading effectively: 

These thoughts ultimately lead to the feeling of being a fraud. It becomes an unwinnable game, and it is such a depleter in a time like this that’s extraordinary, where you need all of your intellectual and emotional capacity to lead in these times.

Amber Setter

When we experience difficult times, we need to use our energy to lead those around us. Engaging in imposter syndrome will create an inescapable cycle of self-doubt that wastes your intellectual and emotional capabilities. If you engage in imposter syndrome early in your career, you’ll continue feeling like a fraud as you advance into higher leadership positions:  

Now beyond manager, director, a step beyond this is the burden of responsibility. The weight on the shoulders gets a little bit heavier. So not only are you responsible for your own pathway and the career pathways of others, but also the bottom line of the business. … At the highest levels … imposter syndrome comes up, right? So you make it to the highest level of authority in the organization. And guess what? That ‘Am I smart enough?’ demon, it’s still there. … It’s these inner feelings of being an imposter.

Amber Setter
Female sitting beside male colleague smiling in his direction

When you advance to leadership positions without building up your internal self, you’ll experience a great deal of doubt when making your business decisions. You now have to worry about your business and team in addition to your career, so you need to build up your inner confidence to perform exceptional leadership and guide your firm effectively. 

Consciousness impacts your performance

If your thoughts and feelings revolve around not feeling good enough, you’re expending energy that you could use to lead your clients and your firm:

Consciousness, … our thoughts and our fears, run our outer game. And this impacts individual and organizational performance. … People have a part-time job managing their insecurities. … Knowledge workers, for them to perform at their highest levels, their brains need to be available for thinking about: How do I solve complex problems? How do I lead through extraordinary times and provide value during extraordinary times?

Amber Setter

During difficult times, accountants are tasked with engaging in a lot of problem-solving and leadership. Often, they must go the extra mile to support their clients who may be struggling and looking for answers. This may include working a longer tax season because of filing extensions. Focusing on your insecurities only exhausts energy you need to lead your clients and your firm

So how can we address our doubts and improve our consciousness? 

Once you name [your insecurities], they come to light. And they either diminish and lose their power, or people see opportunit[ies] for ways to improve their imperfections. [When this happens,] they can improve and harness their fears and actually transform.

Amber Setter

Consciousness is crucial for your leadership and work performance, but accounting firms and other businesses focus more on technical performance than on internal strength and self-awareness. If someone lacking inner strength advances to a leadership position, they may have difficulty steering their business during a crisis. 

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Many businesses are beginning to recognize that they need to focus on internal strength as much as external performance. Amber noted that the successful hedge fund Bridgewater focuses on the underlying inner strength of its employees: 

The culture of Bridgewater is to focus relentlessly on the cause of behavior rather than the behavior itself. And again, that’s because [the] inner game runs the outer game. “You said that you were going to do X in the organization, and you didn’t do X. Why is that?” It’s not that it’s right or wrong that they did or didn’t do it. It’s the “why.” That’s where the transformation comes from.

Amber Setter

Transformation begins with your inner self. You need to reflect and address your fear and insecurities to develop your consciousness. Once you build your internal strength, you’ll be able to lead confidently and effectively. 

Learn more about unlocking your leadership potential 

If you traverse your career without developing your internal self, you’ll lack the confidence to become an exceptional leader for your firm and the clients you serve. Engage in introspection and address your underlying fears and anxieties so you can improve your work and leadership performance. 

If you’re ready to learn more about becoming an extraordinary leader, check out Part Three of this webinar series, where Amber will inform you about leading during uncertain times. Also, be sure to check out Part One to learn about the definition of extraordinary leadership and the importance of self-reflection. You can also watch the full webinar here

Becoming a more effective leader will help you better serve your clients and firm, and one great way you can start improving your leadership abilities is by partnering with Gusto. When you partner with Gusto, you’ll gain access to our People Advisory Certification program, where you’ll learn critical people-based advisory services, such as HR, payroll, and benefits, so that you can guide your clients during this unprecedented time. If you want to learn more about becoming People Advisor Certified, click here

Updated: August 17, 2021

Gusto Editors
Gusto Editors
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