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CPA Now
Jul 20, 2015

Transforming the Controller from Manager to Leader

Forces in the current business environment are altering the demands placed on controllers, including advances in technology and social connectivity, the availability of vast amounts of data, the expansion of global competition, and increased scrutiny over compliance with regulatory standards.

Many controllers are capitalizing on these demands to transform their role from a process-oriented controller to a strategic business partner. Many traditional controller functions can be classified as management processes, which produce order and create consistency; the controller who is also a business partner, however, adds leadership functions and produces change.

The main aspects of leadership deal with establishing direction, creating a vision, aligning people, and inspiring those people to move toward the goal. Managing, on the other hand, focuses on allocating and monitoring the daily activity of the resources needed to achieve an established direction or goal, setting timelines, making procedures, and taking corrective actions in those areas as needed.

The following comparison between management and leadership shows the main functions and subsequent activities of each:

leadership chart

Organizations need to have both competent leaders and managers to be effective. Controllers need to successfully wear both hats, but during the transition to business partner it is important to showcase your leadership skills so that the executives in your company recognize your true value.

Note: This article was adapted from the 2015-2016 course manual for Transforming Your Role as Controller to Business Partner by Jim Lindell, CPA, MBA, CGMA, with the permission of the American Institute of CPAs.

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