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Issue: 72 - Dec 15, 2014
Building Great Leadership Within Your Practice
By: Marsha L. Henke, CPA
Marsha L. Heinke, CPA, Inc
What makes a great leader? How can I be a leader in my practice or on my team? The answer is simple but not so simple: it depends on the person and the situation. No two people are alike and no two situations can be handled in the exact same way. Leadership development is a personal, life long journey.
Sometimes, people erroneously believe that “management” equals leadership. While successful managers always need leadership qualities, leadership capability is required of all team members, regardless of organization position. A leader, then, is not always the manager; a leader is any member of the team who influences and supports the team at any given time.
Leadership is both learned and innate; it does not come simply because a title is given. Anyone (with volition) can learn and develop their leadership abilities and behaviors.
Many of the greatest leaders have a natural mindset and demeanor to lead, through the ability to work with others in a productive way. We can learn from emulation, books, and many readily available systems as to how to improve and build upon our own natural abilities. A key learning in this process is gaining understanding and appreciation of what motivates others who interact with us.
The manner in which a person interacts, motivates, and leads those around them is known as their “Leadership Style”. There are four basic leadership styles:
  • Task oriented
  • Want to see results
  • Less concerned with how results are obtained
  • Direct communication
  • Practical
  • Less social than other leaders
  • Based on relationships
  • Listen and encourage
  • Want to hear ideas and opinions of team members
  • Provide praise, recognition
  • Communicates openly and clearly with team


  • Consults with employees
  • Makes decisions with help from team
  • Works best with teams who are highly skilled and seasoned
  • Creates positive work environment
  • Is effective in obtaining buy in from team members

Achievement Oriented

  • Set challenges for team that allow team to succeed
  • Sets challenging goals for self and leads by example
  • Expectation is constant improvement
  • May focus on continuing education as part of team growth

Understanding Your Own Leadership Style

In order to become a better leader, first understand who you are as a leader. What is your individual leadership style? Check off the prior attributes that match what you do: you likely have a combination of the characteristics of the four basic styles, but one style may predominate. Ideally, you want to learn to be flexible and adjust your style to fit certain situations and certain individuals. No one way is better than the others.

Another important factor: how do team members perceive your leadership style? Does your perception of your leadership style agree with what others say? Do your team members respond positively to your leadership style? If not, ask for feedback so to modify your approach to better collaborate and communicate. Most people will not voluntarily tell you how they need you to lead. It is up to you to dig in and figure it out.

Leading by using your natural strengths can be a good strategy, especially when you exhibit those behaviors throughout your work day. However, work on developing your leadership skills in areas that you find most challenging. Self-awareness is key to identifying your strengths and weaknesses and can help you understand specific factors that impact your ability to lead and motivate others. Be candid about the challenges you face as a leader. Ask for help in developing behaviors that shore up these weaker aspects of your style. Observe and talk with team members who thrive in the areas that you lack.

Creating a Culture of Leadership

Identify and invest in your own leadership development to set the example for your team members. Talking about your own journey in personal development is an important component in supporting a culture of leadership within your practice team. If you are not the practice owner, enlist his or her support of leadership development. As part of a leadership-focused team, you will want to identify others with leadership qualities within the practice and assist them with their personal development as well.

Remember that leadership qualities do not always present themselves in a positive fashion. The biggest instigator on your team may very well be a strong leader, requiring redirection and coaching. Honing those leadership qualities and helping your team to utilize them for the betterment of the practice is your job as a leader. It is important to get all leaders on the same path rather than arguing about how to proceed, which can kill progress towards accomplishing goals.

Develop a passion within the team with a mission to work cohesively in accomplishing the overall goals of the practice. Make it a priority to share the mission, vision and goals of the practice with the entire team. Do they understand the mission and why it is important not only to the practice but also to the patients, clients and the employees as individuals?

The more that you build a culture of leadership within your practice, the more successful your team will become. This directly results in a more efficiently run business with every team member working their hardest to achieve the best results possible.

Returning to the questions asked at the beginning of the article: “What makes a great leader?” and “How can I be a leader in my practice or on my team?” The answer is that it depends on you. There is no secret formula. You simply must know who you are as a leader and take the initiative to become the best version of yourself. If you do this, others will look to you as a source of inspiration and happily follow your lead.