Leading When Successful: Four Ways We Do It

Google is such a great way to see the topics that are trending. If you search for “leading through” topics, you’ll find a bevy of “leading through adversity,” “leading through change,” and “leading through tough times” subjects. You won’t find quite as many results when you search for “leading when successful.”

From my observations, I believe that leading when you are successful provides unique challenges and potential for big stumbles if it isn’t done well. Why? Often, the lack of leadership focus in good times is the result of complacency (Everything is great, let’s just ease back and relax.) or arrogance (We made it! Nothing can stop us now.) Woe to the leader who takes this approach. Learning from your success is every bit as important as learning from adversity and tough times. This allows you to develop a strategy that capitalizes on the reasons for your success and to move yourself and/or your company even further into growth and success. Becoming complacent or arrogant about success leaves us all open to surprises – changes in personnel, markets or other factors that contributed to your success to begin with – and with no plan to correct them.

In times of success, our leadership team at Smith & Howard spends considerable energy understanding why we are succeeding and working on ways to take the elements that got us there and use them for continued success. There are four key factors that get us there:

Honest assessment. We take a good, hard look at ourselves individually, at each other, at each department, each industry specialization group and at the firm as a whole to see what has been successful. Of course, part of this assessment also reveals where we may be falling short in some areas. This is critical to continuing a path to success, also.
A close look at numbers. Sure, we’re CPAs so the numbers are important to us. But they’re important to any business owner who wants to understand how the strategy has affected the business in recent history as a way to understand how it may affect the future. We don’t just view numbers as a measurement for success or failure. We look behind the numbers to see what the difference maker(s) were in terms of what moved the needle (or didn’t).
Innovation. Accounting and innovation are not always terms used together. But at Smith & Howard and our sister-firm Smith & Howard Wealth Management, we know that making innovation a part of our culture is key to a vibrant future. That’s why we have an official innovation program that we are constantly honing to make sure it isn’t just a “project” but is truly cultural. How can innovation make us better and help our clients and our community? We ask this often.
Smarter, better, every day. Started by our tax department, you now hear or read this often at Smith & Howard. We’re smart and we’re good – but how can we be smarter and better? And not just today or for one audit or tax return – but every day? We think about this individually and in groups and develop ways to make it happen.

In essence, the way we lead through success is much the same way we lead through adversity. Leaders never take their eye off the goal and they don’t allow their team to do it, either.

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