Seven Essential Ingredients for Leadership

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"I am also constantly trying to improve these skills through formal education and by working with my financial counterpart to understand how he looks at particular projects and views the impact to the company," Geisse says.

Saul recommends taking a course in basic accounting or bookkeeping and getting on-the-job training. He worked as a bookkeeper for his local government when he was in college and says the experience has proved invaluable.

"There is a set of financial skills that go beyond simple bookkeeping and relate more to judgment," says Saul. "These include the ability to forecast and anticipate requirements."

Pete Walton, vice president and CIO at Hess Corp. in New York, says he learned quite a bit about finance when he ran a small manufacturing firm in the early 1980s. But he also advises getting assistance from others in the company. "There are people in your organization that understand this area well -- love it, in fact," Walton says. "They are also likely to be willing to help you up the learning curve, so don't be bashful."

Ideally, an organization will have a formal program for training and mentoring that helps employees fill the gaps in their financial education. But if not, don't let that stop you.

"Everyone is responsible for their own career development," says Karen Hopkins, principal of The Hopkins Group LLC, a Dallas-based human resources consulting firm. "It's your career. You should be willing to invest some of your own resources in it."

Financial Know-How: Why It's Crucial If Rodney Dangerfield couldn't get any respect, it was probably because he wasn't trained in finance.

"IT credibility was gained when we understood our costs, the drivers of those costs and how they benchmark in our industry," says Pete Walton, vice president and CIO at Hess Corp. "IT credibility is a key to becoming more than just a service provider to the business."

Andreas Wuchner, head of global IT security at Novartis International, concurs. "Finance is a very important building block for success. Never underestimate it," he says. "Transparency in financial questions creates trust and reflects leadership excellence."

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