Janice Maiman is the Senior Vice President of Communications, Media, News and Professional Pathways at the AICPA. Janice has always impressed us with her tireless pursuit of excellence and her ability to get the best performance from others.  In her role at the Institute, Janice directs brand management, media relations, creative services, AICPA.org and CGMA.org, the AICPA’s financial literacy program, and communication strategy related to executive, strategic, member, state society and internal communications. She also oversees student recruitment, academic outreach, and diversity and inclusion programs for the AICPA.   Wow!

With the depth and breadth of Janice’s role and responsibilities, we knew she’d have keen insights on the subject of leadership – what great leadership looks like and how emerging leaders can take hold of their futures. We’re honored to share Janice’s eloquently communicated perspective with you in this post.

Janice Maiman

ConvergenceCoaching: Whose leadership style do you most admire and why?
Barry Melancon, AICPA CEO, is an extraordinary leader who marries vision with a commitment to driving outcomes for today and the longer term.  He puts organizational mission before personal ambition, which is incredibly motivational.  However, as an AICPA employee, I feel compelled to look beyond my immediate world for examples of leaders I admire.

Tom Hood, CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs, comes to mind immediately.  Leadership is about inspiration, the courage to experiment and fail, the humility to recognize how senior management floats on the talents of the teams they assemble, and a healthy dose of humanity and humor.   What I admire most about Tom is that he has a unique ability to see the in-between and celebrates discovery outside the lines.  In other words, his perspective is unfettered by the usual hurdles to creativity: resignation to the status quo, attachment to the “way things are done,” or pre-conceived limitations.

ConvergenceCoaching: What do you think is the single most important leadership attribute or characteristic is and why?
JM: Passion.  People will not follow a leader whose heart and soul are not fully engaged in the pursuit of their business or organizational objectives.  To succeed, a company needs people who are coming to work with “belief.”   When a leader loses his fire, it is like the sun setting.   There is no clear direction and the shadows of indecision, uncertainty and lack of purpose spread quickly.

ConvergenceCoaching: What do you look for in young up-and-coming leaders?
JM: I often tell young staff that there is a clear distinction for me among those with the capacity for leadership.  I start from the assumption of competence.  But then I look for the secret sauce: a driving desire to have an impact.  And when competence and conviction to drive outcomes combine with a talent to connect, an individual begins to create ripples of success.  It is almost a chemical reaction.  Put a budding leader on a critical project, and they will pull talent toward them and inspire meaningful action.  I also look for people who are seeking to become heroes versus stars.  If they are interested only in getting a promotion or standing in the limelight, they may be great performers, but they aren’t leaders.  A hero cannot exist outside of a system.   A hero makes something happen for a greater good.  For me, those are the individuals who will rise to the top -- not just because of their talent, but because of their impact.

ConvergenceCoaching: How do you develop leadership in others?
JM: I believe in whole person management.  We don’t leave our personality, history, strengths and weaknesses at home.  I want my team to be authentic and honest in their work life, and it is my obligation to recognize them both as professionals and as human beings.  That means I have to do the same. Bring my authentic self to work, be willing to admit faults, explain my actions, and give them personal context to understand who I am, how I operate and why, and what I expect from them.

With that connection in place, I seek permission – or sometimes demand permission – to challenge.  My most frequent questions to staff are: why are you doing this?  What are you trying to achieve?  Who else needs to be involved? What corners have you explored and which ones have you forgotten?  What are the best practices that exist today and more importantly, which ones are emerging that we need to seize?  Appreciative inquiry is critical to establishing the habit of appropriate professional humility – no one person has all the right answers -- and consistent reflection on how a professional can shift from good enough to great.

ConvergenceCoaching: What advice do you have for those looking to step into a leadership position in their firms or businesses?
JM: My first advice would be don’t let your actions and decisions be driven by a desire to become a leader.  Too often, a person’s ambition to ascend into leadership results in a descent into politics, self-interest, and knowledge-hoarding. Instead, start with an assessment of where you are in your organization.  Do your talents and passions line up with the key mission and priorities of the business?  If they don’t, it is unlikely that you are firing on all cylinders.  Focus on building relationships, learning about the business, taking on assignments that awake butterflies in your stomach and make you sweat a little more than you like.  Work ethic may be an old-fashioned term, but it is still a quality that I value and believe is essential for someone to rise above the pack.  Work hard, be prepared, focus on solutions and not problems, respond swiftly and thoughtfully to emails and inquiries, own your mistakes, share your wins, and know what you are willing to fight for and why.  In other words, show up, speak up, and stand up.

Don’t be afraid to be afraid.  When you are truly stretching and growing, it won’t always feel good.   But if you focus on driving success for the business, and accept risk and discomfort as a condition of transforming yourself from an employee to a high performer, you will likely find yourself emerging as a leader or being pulled into leadership by those around you.

ConvergenceCoaching: What three words best describe your leadership style?
JM: Passionate.  Focused.  Authentic.

We love Janice’s point about letting go to the attachment to the “way things are done” and celebrating discovery outside the lines. Marketplace change demands innovation and taking steps toward new processes and possibilities – internally with your people and structure, and externally with clients. Those who look toward the horizon will see prolonged success.

Janice also shares the unique distinction of emerging leaders desiring to be a hero versus a star. People can tell when someone seeks leadership and recognition for personal gain and it’s incredibly hard to motivate a team of people to follow your vision if they don’t feel like they’re part of the ultimate success. Focusing on enrolling others is incredibly important in reaching your own goals.

What is the difference between being a hero vs. being a star in terms of leadership to you? How do you ensure you’re thinking outside the lines in your current role? Share with us in the comments box below.