This month’s Leadership Spotlight features John D. Sensiba, Managing Partner of Sensiba San Filippo LLP. John directs the firm’s strategic plan and market growth, provides oversight on all executive and operational decisions and leads the firm’s team in the delivery of superior client service. On the technical side, John specializes in providing accounting, business consulting and tax advisory services to companies throughout Northern California.
We’ve enjoyed getting to know John and his talented team. We are thrilled to share John’s perspective on leadership with you:
ConvergenceCoaching: Whose leadership style do you most admire and why?
JS: I admire Ronald Reagan’s leadership style. He surrounded himself with smart people, listened to them and was decisive and clear in his direction. He was also empathetic and humble. While he certainly had opinions and policies that were not popular with everyone, he was respectful in his communication and behavior.
I’ve read several books about Reagan and learned that his charitable acts were very personal. Instead of giving great sums of money to recognized charities, he gave meaningful amounts to many individuals in need. He wrote them personal checks based on their appeal for assistance. Since these folks weren’t registered charities, he didn’t deduct these payments on his tax returns and therefore his charitable heart was never made public during his lifetime.
Our firm’s priorities are Family, Community and Firm – in that order. We value the contributions that our firm and its members make to our society. I think that Reagan set a great example of how to do that in a meaningful and humble way.
ConvergenceCoaching: What do you think the single most important leadership attribute or characteristic is and why?
JS: It is difficult to name a single attribute. Emotional IQ is critical, but without communication skills, how you feel and what you know can’t be impactful to others. Without the ability to communicate your vision and direction, it is impossible to inspire people to do great things.
On the other hand, without vision, passion and that emotional understanding, strong communication skills are worth very little and could be damaging.
ConvergenceCoaching: What do you look for in young up-and-coming leaders?
JS: Communication skills and emotional IQ. Additionally, we look for people who want to help others. We seek professionals who understand the importance of the work that we do and the impact that we have on our clients and society.
We use the skills that we’ve learned to help our clients achieve their goals, reduce their risk and achieve peace of mind related to the financial and tax aspects of their lives. By helping people in this way, we feel that they are better able to fulfill the many other roles in their lives with their families and in their communities.
ConvergenceCoaching: How do you develop leadership in others?
JS: Through mentoring, by modeling behavior and through formal outside leadership development programs.
As part of our less formal process, we encourage our colleagues to participate in community organizations that allow them to take on leadership roles and to observe the leadership style of individuals outside of our profession and our firm. For those who are interested, we help place them on appropriate boards for organizations that appeal to them. As partners in our organization, we also participate in outside organizations in leadership and other roles. When professionals are ready to take the step up to equity ownership, they enter a partner-in-training program that allows them to attend partner meetings, participate in strategic retreats and to review our governance and compensation policies with the Managing Partner.
ConvergenceCoaching: What advice do you have for those looking to step into a leadership position in their firms or businesses?
JS: Start leading. You don’t need permission or a specific title. Start leading and people will follow. Also, be a student of leadership. Read well-written books on leadership. Talk to leaders you admire. Be authentic and understand that leadership is an obligation and a duty. If you have leadership skills, you should do everything you can to continue to develop those skills for your entire life.
ConvergenceCoaching: What three words best describe your leadership style?
JS: I don’t think I get to do that (others’ perception is the real description), but if I could I would hope for Inspirational, Empathetic, and Evocative.
I appreciated that John points to his firm’s values and the role that they play among their leadership and people. I also liked John’s point about leadership attributes being intertwined and how it’s difficult to separate “most important” attributes from “less important” ones. That’s why developing as a leader is both so challenging and rewarding – it pushes you outside of your comfort zone to develop areas that are weaker, while maximizing your strengths. It’s almost like exercise – the old theory of “spot training” no longer holds. We must exercise entire groups of muscles to see results and the same goes for our leadership abilities.
What is your advice for others who want to step out and lead but aren’t sure where to start? I love John’s recommendation of reading great leadership books. What leadership books would you most recommend to others? Please share your ideas in the comments box below. We’d love your feedback!