Not Just a Number Cruncher: The CFO Leader

Great leaders not only define the vision of the organization, they create buy-in at all levels.

As John Maxwell says, “People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.” In today’s business environment, CFO leaders are not just number crunchers (if they ever were). They’re catalysts for change, developing strategic insight based on a data driven approach. And like all good leaders, they say no, even when the more popular decision would be to say yes.


Today, the CFO is a catalyst for change within the organization. Using a data driven approach, CFOs assess which strategies could create value and then foster alignment between key decision-makers to gain momentum on the resulting initiatives. As Pamela R. Murphy and Yolande E. Chin write in their article “The CFO Competency Map” CFOs create accountability and focus on “establishing a value attitude throughout the organization.” And like any great leader, they marry the ability to listen to others, with the courage to make tough decisions.


The word “steward” has an appealing ring to it. This stems from the feeling that a steward has a caretaker like approach to whatever they are responsible for. CFOs, with their privileged access to information across an organization, are often trusted advisors. They ensure that their company complies with financial and reporting demands, and take the lead on risk management and asset preservation. The responsibilities of stewardship are profound and as Jason Karaian writes in “How CFOs Took Over the Boardroom” company missteps “fall disproportionately on the CFO.”

With their analytical approach, CFOs provide perspective on growth and innovation. They are change agents, responsible for balancing costs and service levels. They are trusted advisors to upper management, and stewards of the company’s assets. In a role that continues to evolve, the image of a CFO pouring over numbers in an isolated office is no longer an accurate reflection of the job’s demands.

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