From Chartered Accountants to CEOs: how Chartered Accountants can lay claim to leadership roles


Being a Chartered Accountant is an ideal pathway to management and leadership roles. Here, our practitioners share their thoughts on what makes a good leader.

Being a Chartered Accountant enabled Joseph Ong, Managing Director of 1-Group in Singapore, to learn about and develop new management techniques. He says his business takes a collective approach to leadership that combines finance, HR, marketing, sales and operations.

Collective leadership

“The fact that we are not a company that is decided and managed by one person makes us a powerful team. Collective leadership has multiple functional groups … the decision-making approach is very dynamic, creative and comprehensive,” Joseph says.

Understanding business

Chartered Accountants who aspire to leadership roles should have the characteristics of adaptability and a broad mind, according to Laila Giwa, head of finance with Skullcandy in Zurich. “It’s really important to be adaptable. It’s also really important to broaden your horizons and not just focus on one area of finance or accounting because our role is increasingly being automated or outsourced… it’s really important to make sure you’re not just a number cruncher but you really understand the business and how to use the tools available to you,” she says.

Customer focus is another key attribute for modern leaders, adds Christabel Michel Banda, CEO, Insurers Association of Zambia and ZICA member. “The CEO leading a business in today’s world has to know what their end user needs… It’s important for the CEO to have a firm grasp of the operating environment.”

Team effort

Part of being a good leader is to surround yourself with a good team, says John Chiwele, CFO at Mopani Copper Mines and ZICA member. “You need to be a good leader and as part of that you need to come up with the right team with the right skills to work with you,” he says.

The best leaders anticipate change and respond to it proactively, John adds. “It’s a dynamic world that we live in. everything is changing … so you need to be ready to move with the time. You don’t have to react to change, you have to take the lead.”

Leaders will invariably face challenges during their tenure. Nutan Wozencroft, now the CFO for UNESCO, recalls managing during a downturn when the organisation she worked for at the time needed to reduce its spending without damaging its capacity to deliver services. Managing through that difficult period remains a source of pride in her career.