Where's a Good Leader When You Need One - Fifth Report from the IIA All Star Conference

In my first post from the IIA All Star Conference, I wrote about a presentation on leadership within Internal Audit — what we need to exhibit, where we need to go, and how we might get there. The presentation itself delivered a very positive set of opportunities while, at the same time, throwing all of us a challenge. 

Tuesday I sat in a presentation that was a definite wake up call for internal audit in this same category.

Quick preface — this was one of those situations where I sat in about 10 minutes of another presentation and realized “Nice information, but I’ve heard this before, and I think there’s something better down the hall.” (My rule: My time is worth more than a few CPEs. I will not sit in a presentation where I am getting nothing more than those credits.) So I went to see Patty Miller’s presentation 'Insight: Delivering Value to Stakeholders.'” (And as an aside to an aside — Patty always does a good job. If you get to hear one of her presentations — jump at the chance.)


Having missed the first ten minutes, I do not have a full perspective on the background of this presentation other than she was providing information from a study she did for the IIA. The title of the study might even be the same as the title of this presentation. I stink as a journalist — I don’t have it in my notes. If someone out there knows the study – please add it in the comments — because I think this is one everyone ought to read.


When I entered the presentation, Patty was discussing survey results related to the insights internal auditors expected to deliver, the insights expected from the board, insights expected from executives, and the gaps between expectations and deliverables. There were some interesting gaps. 


I noticed that the crowd was getting a little antsy.


She presented more information and then dropped the real bomb. According to the executives surveyed, internal audit “lacks business acumen, courage, and/or leadership.”


Take a moment and let that one sink in. 

The crowd seemed to visually pull back like a cobra ready to strike. Hands shot into the air. Every single person attached to the raised hands began building the defense in the case of internal audit vs. our ability to be leaders. “Did the executives consider this…?” “Did the executives understand…”? “Were the executives thinking about…?” They all sounded like auditees trying to explain away results they didn’t want to hear.

And, ultimately, the questions were moot. It really didn’t matter how clear the executives were on such details. The point was that their perception of leadership related to internal audit was that there were significant gaps. And that perception is those leaders reality.

No, every executive surveyed did not say this, and I’m sure your department is different, but it is a cold shower of water in the morning to realize that we may have a lot further to go than we thought.

Don’t get me wrong — there was also positive in the presentations — best practices etc. This one statement was not the crux of the message that was being delivered. However, the impact of that one statement is a concept all auditors need to understand and come to grips with. To be the future, to be true leaders, we may have a lot further to go than we first thought.

To understand if that is true, we better get out there and find out the truth.

And when we hear the truth, we better accept it as true.

Posted on Oct 11, 2012 by Mike Jacka

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