Leadership ability is important at all levels of a career—not just for those with manager, controller, or CFO as a job title. Throughout my career, I’ve come across folks who think that their leadership opportunities will only start with a promotion into a supervisory or management position. Some of them seem to think that as soon as they receive that promotion, they will magically become leaders. In truth, leadership skills can be a significant determinant of career advancement and success. Promotions to leadership roles are generally based on demonstrated leadership skills, understanding of leadership concepts, and proof of the aptitude and desire for a leadership role. All these things are in your control as you plan your career and prepare for more responsibility.

I once had a young software developer working for me whose stated career goal was to become a program manager. With his goal in my mind, I began to give him assignments that would develop and test his leadership skill set and aptitude. It didn’t go well. All his prior training had been focused in his technical field. When faced with a team-building opportunity, he struggled with building relationships, delegating, and helping the group become a team. He was prone to take credit for the team’s accomplishments, so when difficulties or conflicts arose, he was unable to foster the type of trust and communication that would lead to successful resolution. Through coaching, we began to address these development needs, but it was ultimately up to him to prepare himself. It’s still a work in progress, but there are encouraging signs.

Are you preparing for leadership opportunities? As a member of IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants), you have free access to a variety of resources to help you develop and hone your leadership skills, including leadership courses, articles in Strategic Finance, and mentoring. IMA also offers an opportunity to practice leadership skills as a volunteer leader at the chapter, council, or global level. You could think of IMA service as a laboratory where you can experiment with different leadership techniques and styles to find out what works in practice. IMA even tracks your leadership progress and provides formal recognition for achieving various milestones.


The Leadership Academy currently has 26 courses that provide both theoretical and practical insights on leadership concepts like transformational leadership and talent selection. We’re adding two to four new courses each year and ensuring that existing courses are up to date. Since starting the webinar series in 2010, we’ve had an annual average of nearly 12,000 members attend our free webinars. In the most recent fiscal year, we had more than 14,000 attendees, each earning up to 1.5 Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits.

Our courses can also be used by chapters and councils for their education programs either with trained Leadership Academy volunteer faculty or local volunteers using our course slide decks, a leader’s guide, and participant workbooks. Past Leadership Academy webinars are also available online for viewing by all members, though recorded webinars don’t currently qualify for CPE credit.


The Leadership Academy ensures that we have interesting, timely, and relevant leadership articles in each issue of Strategic Finance, so if you’re reading this, you’ve already discovered an easy way to collect new ideas and insights in leadership. Some of my favorite recent topics have included relational leadership, leadership under pressure, and leading in a multicultural environment. You can search sfmagazine.com to find a complete list.


Currently the IMA mentoring program has 167 experienced leaders who have volunteered their time to mentor other members in a variety of topics. Getting started as a mentor or a mentee is easy. Log in to the IMA website and find the Leadership Academy link under “Tools & Resources” on the menu bar. Once there, scroll down and select the “Mentor Identification Network” link, and you’ll be able to complete or update your profile and sign up.


One easy way to gain leadership experience is to volunteer with IMA at the local chapter, regional council, or global level. Roles are available for all interests and experience levels. You can find a local chapter or council in the same “Tools & Resources” section of the IMA website. Just select the “Networking” menu item and follow the links. For global leadership positions, calls for nominations are periodically announced by email. Positions include advisory committees and the IMA Global Board of Directors.


IMA offers recognition of leadership achievements. Initially this was done through the distribution of medallions for meeting specific criteria of continuing education and practical leadership experience. In May 2015, this was changed to recognition through digital badges that members can display in their online social media profiles. More than 46,000 members are registered in our Global Leadership Pool database. That’s more than half of all IMA members! Of those, about 20% have achieved Leadership Academy recognition with digital badges in the last year and a half.


The new year is a good opportunity to evaluate your career progress and plan next steps. Ask yourself: “Am I taking full advantage of all the resources my IMA membership offers me to achieve my goals?” If the answer is “no,” make a resolution to improve your leadership knowledge and find opportunities to practice what you learn, such as volunteering as a leader in IMA. Don’t put it off any longer!


The IMA® Leadership Academy provides leadership opportunities for all members. From leadership assessment to leadership courses offered in person as well as through WebEx to participation opportunities in mentoring, be it reverse or traditional, the IMA Leadership Academy can help you meet your leadership goals and improve your leadership skills. For more information, please visit the Leadership Academy website at www.imanet.org/tools-and-resources/leadership-academy.


The IMA Leadership Academy was created in June 2009 by the Global Service Pool Advisory Committee chaired by former IMA Chair Bud Kulesza. The committee, consisting of 14 IMA members and IMA global staff members, defined the structure of the Leadership Academy and the important elements of the IMA leadership development process. An important objective of the advisory committee was to “promote the process to all members so they are aware of what it takes to be a leader, as well as offer opportunities for training and most importantly opportunities to serve in leadership capacities.”

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