This month’s cover story considers internal auditors’ value through the eyes of their stakeholders. Internal audit functions led by CAEs who are strong leaders, we learn, are more likely to be perceived as competent and able to provide stakeholders with the information they request.
There is much guidance available from The IIA and others about what makes a good CAE, including the perspectives provided in this issue’s “Eye on Business” department. What one finds is that many of the leadership traits necessary to be successful in internal audit are universal, no matter the profession. Take publishing, for example. Without these universal traits, the editor-in-chief would be of little value to the publication.
Consider integrity. For CAEs to be trusted by those to whom they report, their actions must be beyond question. Their words must be based on honesty and fact. Likewise, a good editor-in-chief must possess integrity to ensure an unbiased, quality publication.
Integrity and courage are two traits that seem to go hand in hand. CAEs often must report controversial findings. They must have the moral courage to step forward and report wrongdoing, even if it could cost them their job. A good editor must have the courage and integrity to refuse to accept manuscripts that are inappropriate — regardless of who’s submitting them — because they are promotional or misleading and take responsibility when controversy erupts around an article.
Good leaders also have excellent communication skills and business acumen. They know what their business needs to be successful, and they clearly communicate their expectations to staff. They also keep their leaders up to date and informed. “No surprises” is what IIA executive leadership expects of its business-unit leaders.
Finally, good leaders encourage staff growth. They urge their employees to improve their skills and knowledge by sending them to industry conferences and promoting continuing education. Internal Auditor’s staff, all publishing professionals, attend both internal audit and publishing conferences, as they’re expected to be experts in both areas.
These are but a few of the traits I see as necessary for strong leadership. As Bob Rudloff, senior vice president, Internal Audit, at MGM Resorts says in “Eye on Business,” CAE leaders “must be willing to crawl out on a limb to take a position that will not be well-received. They must be willing to invest their time in their people much more so than in their own career. … They must be humble, too, allowing others’ ideas to form before saying ‘no’ and accepting defeat when their team is wrong.” Good advice for any business leader.