Hope everyone is doing okay, or at least as okay as any of
us can be. No doubt the current situation has caused us to face significant
challenges. And local IIA chapters are definitely facing their fair share. In
Phoenix, we had to make a lot of important and quick decisions as the situation
evolved weekly, daily, and hourly. Our chapter president, Morgan Kroeger, did an
excellent job of helping the chapter navigate the insanity that came our way. And
she was more than ably assisted by the chapter officers and the board.
For anyone involved in chapter activities, the following story will probably sound very familiar. But let me go ahead and share our
In early March, the Phoenix chapter planned on going forward
with our monthly meeting. However, there was already some question about the
best way forward, including whether we should hold the meeting at all. To
ensure we were doing the right thing, a board meeting was planned. I had two
chapter presentations scheduled for the month — presentations that included
travel across the country — and, at that time, both were still a go. And I was
in favor of our chapter moving forward with the plan to hold the March meeting.
Since I wasn’t going to be able to attend, I advised the president of my
position and, at that point, she was in agreement.
After that meeting, a second meeting was scheduled. As I
say, I wasn’t able to attend the first one but, apparently, there had been quite
a bit of discussion on the subject. And, events were evolving. Well before that
next meeting (which was only one week later), various board members and
officers began stepping up (via email), raising doubts about the logic of
holding the meeting. At about this same time, both of my March presentations
had been cancelled. In other words, everyone was starting to see the writing on
their various walls. In a very short time, the world had changed. And well
before that second board meeting could be held, the decision was made to cancel
the chapter’s March meeting.
Morgan, as president, did what good leaders do. She got the
input, made initial decisions (with the input of the board), and then made
the necessary changes.
But I also want to congratulate the individuals (whose names
I cannot remember nor find — my apologies) who stepped forward before that
second meeting and began raising questions based on new information. It would
have been easy to shrug it all off and just wait for that next meeting. But
they exhibited informal leadership by stepping forward and helping the chapter
drive towards a faster, more correct conclusion.
A perfect example of how success is achieved by people who
understand that leadership does not require a title.
On the other hand, here’s two more stories. I’m doing my
best to obfuscate the details in such a manner that, even if the people
involved happen to read this, they will not recognize themselves. (And I doubt they
will visit us here; they are not avid, casual, or even once-in-a-blue-moon
readers.) Both of these stories occurred in mid-to-late March. In other words,
they happened when we were all beyond-knee-deep in the crisis.
I was talking to an individual who had been instructed that
the entire staff would be going back to work the following Monday. Not only was
this an unintelligent move, but it also violated certain edicts, advisements,
and strongly-suggested verbalizations that had come down from the governor of
this particular state. The individual noted that many of the people this person
worked with were angry and scared. I asked why the person did not speak up. I
believe the immediate look I saw in the individual’s eyes was fear, but the
excuse was a combination of “nobody would listen” and “it’s not my place.”
Story two: There was a question about whether an event
should be held. There was division within the group charged with delivering the
event, but the leadership seemed to think it should go on. The individual with
whom I was speaking felt it was wrong. (This individual was correct.) I asked
why the individual did not call the leadership team and express this
individual’s concerns. The reply? By now, you’re ahead of me on this one. “It’s
not really my position to do so.”
Position has nothing to do with leadership; leadership can
be demonstrated from anywhere. These stories show how true that
is. In the Phoenix chapter, you find the legitimate leader making decisions,
but willing to change direction when necessary. And you also see individuals
who were willing to show informal leadership by stepping up and ensuring the
chapter understood the changes that were occurring and how they impacted the
current decision. Compare everyone involved in Phoenix to the two individuals
who chanted, “it wasn’t my job/responsibility/position.”
Leadership is a mindset and a willingness to help set
direction, even when you do not have the “authority” to do so. It is seeing a
need and helping direct others to appropriately respond to that need.
I incessantly proselytize that one of the greatest things
about our profession is that all internal auditors, even the brand new, freshly
minted ones still trying to understand the difference between external and internal
audit, are in the unique position of being able to start acting like leaders. Being
part of an audit team, meeting with the heads of internal audit, being provided
insights on how it all works, and even being given front-row seats at meetings
with important people within the organization (dare we say C-suite?) are all opportunities
to learn about and be a leader.
But that only works if the internal auditor is willing to seize
that opportunity — to understand situations, analyze what is needed, and step
forward to make the necessary difference.
You can either sit back saying “it’s not my job” and watch
as mistakes bring things crashing down around you. Or you can step up, be an
informal leader, and show you have the knowledge and skills necessary to lead —
even if you don’t have the title.
No matter who or where you are, be a leader.