The most common traits

  • 01-09-18
  • David Landau

One of the questions we often get asked is “How do I compare to successful finance leaders?” While all finance leaders are different, we do observe some traits that are more common at this level compared with those who aren’t yet in leadership or have chosen other career paths. If you aspire to be a future finance leader, paying attention to these five key CFO characteristics could be a worthwhile investment.


In the past, CFOs might have focused solely on the financial aspects of their organisation. However, as the development of technology transforms the business world, the role of finance leaders is becoming increasingly strategic. Now working across a wider range of functions, having a deeper understanding about the areas of the business (and the ways they interrelate), is now a crucial part of the CFO role.

Many successful financial leaders have equipped themselves for this by undertaking further study in addition to their finance qualifications. Working closely with colleagues from other areas of the business is also a great way to learn and get exposure to different parts of the business.


One of the most underrated characteristics of a senior finance professional is the ability to communicate effectively.  While most finance professionals are comfortable talking about numbers, the key differentiator of successful finance leaders is that they can deliver technical information in a straightforward way to people at different levels with little financial acumen.

This is a particularly important trait for successful Accounting leaders in the workplace of today, where the finance department is not just responsible for the numbers but also the interpretation and communication of what this means.


It might be obvious, but people management skills are critical, as no matter how good your technical skills are, being able to lead people effectively is essential. Whether it’s encouraging an individual to improve their performance or implementing a new idea or process within the team, people are an inherent part of business, and leading is the key characteristic.

Sometimes the best way to learn is simply to lead, however having a good mentor or undertaking external study can both help to progress skills in this area.


Strong recruitment skills may not be one of the first things that come to mind when thinking about the characteristics of a good CFO. However, many executives that we speak to tell us that their careers would have been easier had they spent time mastering how they recruited their teams. After all, a high-performing team is usually needed to achieve the best results for the business.

Successful finance leaders know the attributes that work well in their teams and what to look for in future hires. They also have a consistent recruitment process and well-thought-out onboarding procedures to get the best out of new employees from day one.


Finally, effective time management is what connects all the above points. We know that there are so many distractions and things to do in every finance department and that without careful time management for the entire team, being a successful leader is incredibly hard.

The leaders we speak to all have different ways of managing their time, and this tends to change as they progress in their careers. Some of the best suggestions we have heard include:

  • Utilising task planning software that syncs across multiple devices.
  • Allocating a specific amount of time to business as usual and project functions.
  • Actively seeking out time away from business distractions and day-to-day people management.
  • Building a team that can take on greater levels of responsibility and autonomy.


These are just some of the common traits that make a successful finance leader. Regardless of the stage of your Accounting and Finance career, if you have leadership aspirations, now is a great time to start your preparation and implement some of these characteristics. If you’re looking for more advice or are in the market for a new Accounting job in Sydney, get in touch with us today.

To get more information about traits, look at 4 Traits Shared By Successful Leaders.