Every year INSIDE Public Accounting asks accounting firm leaders to name peers they most admire in the profession. Five MPs were named most often by the more than 540 accounting firm participants in IPA’s Annual Survey and Analysis of Firms. Over the next few weeks, we will share some thoughts from the 2014 IPA Most Admired Peers.
Our fifth of five IPA Most Admired Peers continues with Gordon Viere, MP of Minneapolis-based CliftonLarsonAllen (FY13 net revenue of $563 million), a two-time recipient of the “Most Admired Peer” honor.
How would you describe your leadership style? How does that manifest itself inside the firm?
Viere believes good leaders must build trust. They must be consistent. “Do what you say and say what you do, and they’d better match.” If they don’t, you lose trust, “and if you lose that you don’t win,” says Viere, who surrounds himself with great talent and delegates work so others can have the opportunity to lead and grow.
A leader can’t fake it, Viere says. “Anybody in a leadership position has to have a genuine belief in the profession, their firm and their people.”
Do you believe leadership is a skill that can be learned or is it something you are born with?
Viere says, “I started out as more of an operational leader, but quickly leaned empathy and motivational style were needed, and I needed to communicate the vision, and so I’ve worked hard to hone those skills over the years and I adapt to the situation.”
Besides “on the job training,” what have you done to help improve your leadership skills over the years? Who has helped shaped your approach to leadership?
Viere says that while he learned from respected leaders at the firm in his younger days, he is now learning the most from those who work closely with him now. He regularly seeks feedback on his communication style and often asks others to lead projects and gives them free rein. “Very good leaders are very good followers.”
What would you advise an MP stepping into the top role for the first time?
Viere says, “Listen, learn and then act; and then listen, learn and adjust; and then listen, learn, admit mistakes and adjust again.”
What areas of management and leadership are you looking to improve?
Leadership skills are critical, no matter what you do, Viere says. Because he believes trust is the key ingredient to effective leadership, he says he will examine examples of when he intended to send a message of trust but it didn’t work, and adjust. It’s also important for CEOs to get to know the people on their teams, at every level. That’s no easy feat at a firm the size of CliftonLarsonAllen, with 90 offices, but it is critically important, Viere says.
What’s your philosophy about growth?
Growth is essential because if the firm isn’t growing, it’s stagnating and eventually will go backward, Viere says. “This is not a unique view, but I focus on all areas of growth, business growth, cultural growth, personal growth and career growth.” That means building the career of a professional who wants to leave the firm and become the CFO of a bank. That takes a lot of work and energy but we’ve found that it doesn’t change your turnover – in fact, it does – for the better.”
How important is culture in what you do every day, and how are you developing the right culture in your firm?
More than anything, a leader must be positive, and it can’t be faked. Viere says he truly believes that the more chaos and complexity there is, the more opportunity there is for professional services firms. “It’s critical that people in leadership positions to genuinely believe this is one of the best times for our profession there has ever been, and that’s what I believe.”