As the role CFO evolves to strategic business partner their leadership style has to adjust to accommodate the quick pace of innovation, unsettled global markets, heightened competition and other disruptive factors.

To effectively lead, the future CFO need to balance their finance duties with a need for innovation and agility, as they are actively involved in ensuring better business outcomes and developing new revenue streams. “Today’s CFOs are partnering with other members of the C-suite in driving business strategy, so a CFO with a strong accounting or controlling background is no longer enough, you need strong business acumen with greater focus on people” said Anthony Coletta, CFO of SAP North America.

John Gimpert, National Programming Chair & Chicago Regional Director at The CFO Leadership Council, concurred, noting that “high intellect and strong functional skills are no longer sufficient.” The organization’s CFO leadership framework includes enhancing their ability to lead themselves and others, knowing the organization and delivering performance. Attributes essential to delivering performance encompass being diligent about driving results, setting priorities effectively, possessing an open, problem-solving mindset, and adopting an innovative and adaptive approach to change.

The Skills Modern Finance Leaders Need

The future CFO needs to be a thought leader who fosters an open and collaborative culture to build next-generation practices. “That means empowering the team and giving them more control over the day-to-day finance operations,” Coletta said.

To succeed in their new leadership roles, senior finance executives need to be adept at interacting with people inside and outside of their organization. “There is a huge shift in how the CFO spends their time,” Coletta said. The new brand of finance leader must position themselves as an ambassador of innovation by having an open dialog with sales, marketing, IT and other stakeholders.

The future CFO will be an architect of growth and value creation, according to Coletta. “Finance has an impact at every step of the value chain which requires building bridges across the organization and across various finance functions.”

One area where modern CFOs are leading is talent acquisition to foster the next generation of leaders. “I spend a good portion of my time mentoring and encouraging members of the finance team and ensuring that we hire or promote the right people,” Coletta noted. A successful finance team will include people with different backgrounds and demographics, but also a diversity of viewpoints.

Going forward, CFOs will also interact more frequently with those outside of the organization to understand and improve their connection to the finance function and the business overall. “I spend way more time with partners and customers in order to improve those relationships and understand their business imperatives and how finance can better serve their needs with innovative solutions,” Coletta said.

Coletta offers this advice as CFOs shift leadership styles:

  • Focus on the culture, not solely on optimizing processes
  • Understand the broader technology trends and how to translate into core business
  • Continuously invest in learning / people’s development
  • Be an agent of the change you want to see

Click here for more information about the future leadership style of the CFO.

Author: Anthony Coletta

As chief financial officer (CFO) for SAP North America, Anthony Coletta is steering the business in a territory that spans the United States and Canada, fostering operational excellence and overall financial health of the region. His role extends to driving the cloud business in SAP’s largest market and leading strategic initiatives as part of Global Finance leadership team