Leadership is about people, not just profits

Leadership is about people, not just profits

The global economy is moving lightning fast, and technology is a key driver. This requires financial leaders to think differently about how they mobilise, strengthen, and drive their teams in order to add value, said Gbemi Adelowore, ACMA, CGMA, head of finance at the West African branch of global software company SAP. She spoke recently at the CGMA Africa Conference 2019: Finance Transformation in the Digital World in Cape Town.

“Financial leaders need to move from control to the empowerment of others, from hierarchies to networks, and from silos to transparency,” Adelowore said in her presentation. “This requires leaders to be flexible, open-minded, take on challenges, and be open for new opportunities.”

At the end of the day, financial leadership essentially is much more than generating profits, according to Adelowore. Because finance teams need to remain agile, and work co-operatively, managers need to work hard to ensure that their teams are motivated, happy, and driven, she said.

This is where managers’ ability to create transparency, empowerment, learning, collaboration, and dialogue form the backbone of a company’s internal culture.

It is about encouraging people, getting the best out of them, and challenging them to improve their ways of creating value for your organisation, said Adelowore.

She offered the following advice for finance managers looking to improve their team’s agility.

Be transparent. The best financial leaders are professionals who guide their teams with a sense of purpose, Adelowore said. You can help create that sense of purpose by communicating the team’s mission clearly and being open about what is driving decision-making.

“If people feel they aren’t involved in the organisations’ decision-making, you stifle their creativity,” she explained.

Empower your team. Let your teams think out of the box so they can take the initiative. Give them the support and tools they need to try new ideas and build a strong tolerance for setbacks.

“Financial leaders should create an environment of psychological safety that allows people to make mistakes and fix these mistakes,” Adelowore said.

Encourage innovation. It is important to challenge your team to improve the ways in which they add and create value, Adelowore said. “As companies, we can’t stick to the status quo. We must always find out what we can do better. For this, we need to seek diverse perspectives and feedback, for instance, by involving younger people,” she said. “We, as leaders, can’t know it all.”

Foster collaboration and communication. Look for ways to bring teams together and communicate because finance teams can’t act effectively if they aren’t communicating with each other. Necessary information gets trapped within isolated pockets, and teams can’t make the best-informed decisions, according to Adelowore.

“You will be amazed to know how much your organisation can lose if you work in silos where no one talks to one another and where everyone is doing things on their own,” she said.

However, it’s not just teams that should be talking to each other. Managers need to act collaboratively and openly and set solid examples for their teams.

“They should strive to be role models who practise what they preach every day,” she said.

Miriam Mannak is a freelance writer based in South Africa. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek, an FM magazine senior editor, at