A Conversation on Leadership with Partner Lisa Ritter
What leadership traits have served you well? And on the flip side, what have you learned that tends to hold women leaders back?
"I think the number one trait that has served me well is a sense of humor. As a partner at a CPA firm, people may have a stereotype of accountants as boring and unfunny. That is not always the case! At least with me. I think being able to laugh is important to break the ice in uncomfortable situations or during difficult conversations. It’s also great in diffusing tension in stressful circumstances. Along with humor, I consider myself a ‘doer’. I don’t want to be working on audits all day. While I enjoy that challenge, there is more to my professional life. Our firm’s primary focus is serving governments and non-profits so I have a close personal affinity for that mission. I have served on several non-profit boards. Currently, I am a member of WITF Public Broadcasting’s Finance, Executive, and Audit Committee along with being a member of the United Way Women’s Leadership Network. A key leadership trait is the ability to diversify! Take on things outside your ‘job description’!"
"I think the biggest challenge that can hold women leaders back is the ability to gracefully say ‘no’ when the situation calls for it. Sometimes I think we are afraid to say this one word as we don’t want people to be disappointed or feel let down. But it’s important to prioritize for your own well being so you can be an effective leader. Balance is key too. Away from work, I love spending time with my granddaughter, Elise Noelle, who was born in May, 2018."
What are some key strategies to help others achieve a more prominent role in their organization or career?
"I think there is a myth that it’s the loudest, brashest people who get ahead. That’s not necessarily the case. I think the key to achieving a more prominent role is to be willing to listen to advice. I advise emerging leaders to not only listen to wise counsel they receive but to quickly act on the recommendations. Also, as I mentioned before, don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ when the situation calls for it. But balance that with being a willing ‘doer’ who will go the extra mile. If there is an opportunity to lead any seminars or presentations, take those kinds of projects on! I think public speaking is a great skill! Also, I know I have a bias for non-profit service, but I can’t speak highly enough of how beneficial is to one’s career and personal growth to serve on a non-profit board."
What key resources have you sought out to help you lead your company/organization?
"I have been lucky enough to work with a wonderful team of partners at our firm. We each have our own strengths and weaknesses and we turn to each other for advice and support all the time. I think that makes our firm unique and we have a closer connection to each other and our audit teams. Along with that, I draw on a lot of technical insight from my involvement on various AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) committees. For example, I currently serve on the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s Not-for-Profit Resource Group."
What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
"The next generation will continue to have more advances in technology at their fingertips that will impact their jobs. Even though that will provide additional avenues for professional growth, you can never discount the value of face to face interactions. Don’t always go for the quick skype or email interactions. It’s important to still interact in person over lunch, coffee, etc."
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