“I haven’t committed a crime. What I did was fail to comply with the law.” — David Dinkins, former New York City Mayor, answering accusations that he failed to pay taxes.
My family and I just spent four wonderful days enjoying the sunshine, dining, and nifty-keen activities in wonderful Cozumel Island. I went there with the full intention of forgetting about the real world and just relaxing. What I least expected was to find a flash of “leadership” insight in a small tourist shop.
There it was, among the Mayan genuine imitation artifacts, Cozumel shirts and little colorful “maracas”…. a vision for self-development. The faux weather beaten placard said:
“I wish I could be the kind of person my dog thinks I am!”
Yea! I know! It is trite and cutesy, but it really hit home. It really got me to thinking about what that person would be like. Someone you could place your trust in, depend on, and even be willing to risk your personal well-being to support. It also made me recall an article that identified some of the best-run organizations in the U.S. today. One of those identified at being exceptionally good at creating a common purpose and a clear tradition of success was the United States Marine Corp. (No, this is not self-serving, folks; I was in the United States Coast Guard, unfairly overlooked by the author of the article, I might say!).
The Marine Corps’ success in creating this sense of “semper fidelis” is their ability to develop great leaders. The article identified the key attributes required of any potential leader. It occurred to me that these are also the attributes that any aspiring government audit leader (actually any audit leader) would exhibit:
Assume responsibility. You must be willing to assume responsibility for your organization, as well as those who report to you.
Know thyself. Be honest when you evaluate yourself. Constantly seek self-improvement.
Lead by example. The manner in which you conduct yourself is more influential than any instructions you may give or any discipline you may impose.
Develop your subordinates. If you are confident in your own abilities, then you must also believe in the competency of your subordinates.
Be there. Be sure that employees clearly understand their tasks. Stay aware of their progress and the problems they are encountering, but do not take the initiative away from them.
Take care of your employees. Know their problems, make sure they receive all of the appropriate help and benefits they need.
Communicate. Rumors only cause undue disappointment and unwarranted anger. Make sure that people know they can always look to you for the truth.
Set achievable goals. Setting unrealistic goals creates frustration and hurts morale.
Make prudent and timely decisions. If you think that you have made a bad decision, have the courage to change it — before it is too late.
Stay competent. Stay abreast of current events in your field. Do not look back to the way things were done in the “good old days.”
Build teamwork. Train employees so they understand the contribution that each one makes to an entire effort. Insist that everyone pull his or her share of the load. When something goes well, celebrate it.
While most of us we do not have the same dangerous mission that the Marine Corp has, we, as government internal auditors have as an important one as any other entity. In our roles as audit leaders and in executing any of our responsibilities, demonstrating leadership is often the difference between providing real value to our constituents or just doing an adequate job. In the end, people get the job done … and leaders motivate them to go the extra mile. While I do not have a dog, I am sure if I did, it would agree … after biting former Mayor Dinkins’ leg!
About the Author
Kenneth J. Mory
Kenneth J. Mory, CIA, CRMA, CPA, CISA, is a principal at Stronghold Solutions and recently retired as the City Auditor for Austin, Texas. In his blog, Mory shares his opinions and insights based on his nearly 20 years of experience as a CAE and a senior manager on the worthy auditor and his value to today’s CAE.