For my first report from the IIA All Star Conference, I’d like to do something a little different – actually report on one of the sessions. Larry Harrington, VP of Internal Audit for Raytheon, kicked things off with a session titled “The Internal Audit Leader of the Future.” There were a lot of interesting concepts in the session. I’m not going to try and put them in a coherent whole (you want a coherent whole, come to a conference a presentation), but I will share some bits and pieces, along with my thoughts on what they might mean to you, me, and the profession
“Leadership also enhances the company.”” It is a common understanding of leadership that part of its role is transformational – transformation of the team, transformation of the leader, and, on the Internal Audit side of things, transformation of the profession. The first because the leader should be leading to something, and that “something” should change the team. The second because a true leader is constantly finding ways to make him or her an even better leader. And the third because a leader – an internal audit leader – should be looking for ways to make the profession better.
But I found the inclusion of the company – transforming the organization for which a leader works – a different thought. To be a true leader, one should be looking for ways to make everything better. And that means making the organization better. And this is a perfect role for internal audit. What is our role but an attempt to make the organization better? This reinforces the role of internal audit as a leader within the organization. And it reinforces the full transformational aspect of the leader
“Transformational is confrontational.” Many people say they want change. And then they are not willing to pay the price for that change. To make change – to move the status quo – a leader must be willing to confront the existing comfort zone and move that target to a location that may not seem quite so nice at first. Someday it will be nice (someday it will be the status quo that needs to be changes); but now it should be painful. If leadership is about changing people, leaders, teams, the profession, and the organization, then that means leadership is about a lot of confrontation.
“Leadership is about developing a leadership legacy”. This isn’t an exact quote – but it is close to the concept. And it is one I am hearing more and more. (I first heard it almost 15 years ago at the Disney Institute.) And here is my follow up on that. Focus on the legacy you want to leave and it will make you the leader you want to be. It’s really that “vision” thing applied to leadership. But it is no less true. If you don’t understand the kind of leader you want to be – if you truly cannot explain it - then how will you ever achieve it?
“Would you pay for your own training, including seminars and conferences?” People keep claiming training is important; yet, at some point, they’ve decided that, no matter how important, it is the organization’s responsibility. If it is truly important, why won’t you invest in yourself?
Just some point that hit home to me today from the opening session. And a reminder to think about what leadership means to you, how you will prepare for it, and how you will exemplify it.