5 “C’s” of leadership for the strategic CFO

These days it’s hard to imagine a scenario where “business growth” and “global expansion” aren’t synonymous.

Reaching new, larger, developing markets is seen as the best way to achieve rapid scaling of business. It makes good sense – rather than limiting your scope of business to your domestic market of customers and fighting competition for a scarce number of possible customers, you merely shift your horizon to the global scene and unlock the potential of markets with millions more prospective targets. A global scope is demanded these days of Canadian firms growing their business, and often a pre-requisite of any investor serious about making money.

A global vision makes even more sense when your domestic market is particularly small – like Canada, for example – or your business is scalable via technology. Software as a Service (SaaS) companies are textbook cases for being poised for global growth. So who will lead your business to world domination, er… global success? According to Deloitte, the leader best positioned to do it is the chief financial officer (CFO).


While the magic of the Internet can make global scale a real possibility for many companies, both big and small, there’s still many regulatory barriers to operating in different countries. Consider the privacy laws and how they affect data compliance standards, the different degrees of power that security agencies have to access data within their jurisdiction, and the varying ways copyright law is handled around the world. It takes a special skill set to navigate all those regulatory hurdles and even turn red tape into an advantage that can make a business more profitable, and the CFO is the one with the right experience.

Of course, this type of leadership role may also be a new experience for some CFOs. David Carney, the principal and national service leader for finance at Deloitte, offers five “C’s” to keep in mind

Curiosity: They should constantly ask “why” questions, be eager to understand how things really work, and both generate and welcome fresh ideas.

Capacity for surprise: They must be willing to set aside preconceived notions, and challenge things that they “know” but might not still be valid.

Courage: They must learn to deliver hard news and be willing to take unpopular stands. And they must see risk as something not to be avoided, but to be managed for reward.

Character: High ethical standards and unwavering integrity have always been essential in a leader; in an era of heightened scrutiny and transparency, they are only more so.

Collaboration: They must be accessible and eager to listen to colleagues, and convinced that better solutions emerge when different perspectives are brought to bear on a problem.

Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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