This month, we have the amazing opportunity to learn more about our friend, Mark Koziel who is the AICPA’s Vice President – Firm Services & Global Alliances. Mark oversees the development, ongoing improvement and delivery of services to members in PCPS/Firm Practice Management as well as International relations with various CPA-related groups.

Prior to joining the AICPA, Mark served as Director of Placement and Human Resource Consulting Divisions at a large local accounting firm in Buffalo, NY.

In Buffalo, Mark was a pioneer in giving young CPAs a voice. He was one of the founding members of the Young CPAs committee. The group created the first ever Young CPAs Forum and provided training in non-traditional areas like Performance Evaluations, Stress Management, Public Speaking and more. The Forum was then carried on to other New York State Chapters and similar forums have since taken place around the country.

ConvergenceCoaching: Whose leadership style do you most admire and why?
MK: There are several leaders to admire, but I admire those who demonstrate results and create future leaders in the process. I work for an organization that has focused on mentoring up-and-coming leaders as Jim Metzler has done for me over the last 7 years. Jim has helped develop me as a leader to the point that I’ve been promoted to his peer. He showed me trust and gave me the ability and latitude to grow. Jim gets that from Barry Melancon and Sue Coffey who have afforded him that same ability.

ConvergenceCoaching: What do you think the single most important leadership attribute or characteristic is and why?
MK: Without a doubt - trust. Developing trust in others. Having trust in others. It’s the two way street of trust. I can’t lead those I don’t trust and I don’t think others would lead me or allow me to grow if I haven’t established their trust to do so. So trust in an organization is paramount for those to lead and those to follow.

ConvergenceCoaching: What do you look for in young up-and-coming leaders?
MK: Passion, confidence, and a will to take control and run with things. All of these attributes combine into a great future leader. First, on passion, I don’t think any leader can convince others to march up the hill without the passion and desire to march with them. Then, seeing those who want to lead projects and meetings without being asked, showing a real interest in managing the work and in managing others to get it done.

ConvergenceCoaching: How do you develop leadership in others?
MK: Trust is a big part of leadership development. I consciously work on trusting others in their decisions and allowing for mistakes. Leaders are making an investment in the development of others by allowing their up-and-comers to do things 70-80% as well as they could’ve done it themselves. I also believe in the importance of coaching others on a very regular basis, discussing how to handle various leadership situations with open, honest, and frank conversations.

ConvergenceCoaching: What advice do you have for those looking to step into a leadership position in their firms or businesses?
MK: Be honest with yourself and with others. Don’t be afraid to ask for the reins. They may not be handed over to you if your leader doesn’t know you’re interested in taking them. Ask questions around personal development to get open and honest feedback on what’s necessary to step into a leadership position. Also, always ask for a timeline when accepting tasks and responsibilities.

ConvergenceCoaching: What three words best describe your leadership style?
MK: I asked one of my successors this question and they told me:

  • Compelling
  • Strategic
  • Passionate

I’d say I agree with the three. Passionate resonates for me as I’m passionate about my profession, my team and constant improvement of who we are as a profession. Compelling also makes sense to me because I try to be logical and convincing in my beliefs fueled partly by the passion. And I agree that I am strategic as I try to look at the bigger picture and try not to get caught up in the short-term benefits at the cost of the long-term goals.

One area for improvement I’m working on was shared with me by my people. It was mentioned that in my leadership of individuals, sharing feedback and explaining my thought-processes is not done proactively, meaning others have to seek feedback from me – good or bad – as I don’t typically provide it willingly. This is something I’m glad to hear so that I can work on it -- as we all have areas we can improve upon.

Mark’s insights on the importance of developing leadership abilities in others reminds me of one of my favorite leadership quotes. Ralph Nader said “The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” It is wonderful to see how this philosophy is followed at the AICPA.

I also find it very telling about who Mark is as a leader that in composing his answers to us, he solicited the input of others. Great leaders typically have a strong self-awareness but are also always constantly seeking input from others on their strengths, weaknesses and performance. It sounds like seeking this type of feedback has given Mark a valuable piece of information on how he can continue to sharpen his leadership abilities and get even better – a character trait we admire more than any other!

I encourage you to use Marks insights and actions as inspiration to go out and actively seek input from those around you about your strengths as a leader and also what they would like to see you do more or less of. And of course, we would love to hear how you benefit from the feedback you receive in the comments section below!

Best Regards,

Michelle Baca