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CPA Now
Nov 08, 2021

Leading in All Directions Essential for Mid-Career CPAs

William HayesBy William J. Hayes, PICPA Administrator of Content and Partnerships


A question for our mid-career level CPA members: Is it possible to be an efficient boss while also underperforming as a leader in your organization? Such is the question posed by leadership coach Jon Lokhorst, CPA, ACC, author of Mission-Critical Leadership: How Smart Managers Lead Well in All Directions, in a recent article he wrote for Smart Brief.

His article seeks to help mid-career CPAs improve their leadership qualities in four different ways: leading up, leading across, leading down, and leading yourself. Starting with “leading yourself,” Lokhorst encourages CPAs to expand their leadership capacity by building a strong personal foundation, including the establishment of personal purpose, mission, and values. He asks developing leaders to take stock of their own strengths and weaknesses, while putting in intensive work to alleviate blind spots.

Map compass over the silhouette of a head“Leading up” means establishing a sense of leadership over someone you might not think you have much control over: your own boss. But as Lokhorst states, “Few people ever become the ‘top dog’ in their organization,” so this is a type of leadership where one can gain a lot of experience. By building trust with your direct superior, you’ll attain a sense of control over your career that many individuals are not lucky enough to have.

“Leading across” is Lokhorst’s term for leading among one’s peers, which he calls the most complex form of leadership. Neither you nor the person you are attempting to lead has authority over the other, which makes this type of leadership so tricky. According to Lokhorst, this type of leadership requires trust and influence, but can bolster your credibility among your fellow leaders and increase your opportunities for working together across teams.

The most common type of leadership, of course, is leading down. Although common, that does not mean leading direct reports is easy. Lokhorst encourages leaders not to depend on the formal authority they have, but rather coach reports to succeed in their roles while also providing opportunities for them to grow and advance.

For more insight from Lokhorst, make sure to check out the full article at Smart Brief.


Jon LokhorstJon Lokhorst will be making a presentation on this topic and his book, Mission-Critical Leadership: How Smart Managers Lead Well in All Directions, at PICPA's Western Pennsylvania Emerging Leaders Summit on Nov. 11 at the Fairmont Pittsburgh.


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Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.