Blog/Finance March 7, 2021

10 Habits of Highly Successful Chief Financial Officers (CFO)


Today, a successful chief financial officer does not only focus on risks and opportunities behind the numbers but acts as a strategic business partner to the CEO in setting a positive course for the organization. Doing that more than well, requires strong leadership, excellent communication, collaboration, and team-building skills.

Here are ten habits of highly successful Chief Financial Officers that helped them go from good to great:

1. Ethical leadership

CFOs are the most trusted individuals in the organization. So holding the highest standard for ethics all the time is a must. They set the tone of the entire organization, including full disclosure of all relevant information in a timely manner, considering the employees, the stakeholders, and depending on where they work, everyone else who may be impacted by their decision.

2. Analytical thinking 

Great CFOs are highly commercial, they understand the business, what drives it, they understand the marketplace the business operates in, they are a big part of the team around the boardroom table, contributing, and also listening to the teams, to the customers, to the investors. 

They are deeply embedded in the business and work closely with the CEO on expansion in the right way, not just focusing on the numbers that somewhat traditional CFOs might think. 

3. Collaboration

In order to gain business knowledge, great CFOs are highly collaborative and collegial. They know how to communicate well, manage up and down, pick the right time to motivate and reward performance, and they are just great to be around. They are in general liked as people, not just as professionals.

4. Building human capital 

Dedicated people are an organization’s most valuable asset. In order to build high-performing teams, great CFOs develop every talent in the organization and encourage them to take ownership of their tasks. 

5. Curiosity-driven attitude

Great CFOs ask questions to get to the root of the problem. They are not just curious but relentlessly curious. If they don’t understand the business and don’t ask the right questions it means they can’t add value and insights. 

6. Staying current 

How tech-savvy CFO needs to be? While it is important to keep up the speed of progress, a CFO doesn’t need to be an expert in every software or system. They simply need to follow the current trends and bring the right people and the right experts into their team. 

7. A strategic partner

A great CFO is also a fantastic strategic partner for the CEO and brings that to every table he/she sits at. CFOs spend time understanding where the market is, where the customers are, what’s really driving the business, and what’s really driving the numerics behind that. They can contribute not just by reporting but by predicting and looking ahead.

8. Exercising leadership 

The CFO needs to become the driver in building alignment in the senior team because it is critical to the health of the organization. At any given time, the rest of the organization is watching how the leadership team challenges each other, holds each other accountable, and leads with a common purpose.

9. Getting on the frontline

Great CFOs go and make the deal happen, rather than sitting back, evaluating and saying “No” and pointing out the potholes on the road. Actively finding deals and creating opportunities is a complete switch from a traditional role for the CFOs and that’s what makes them a leader. In other words, a highly successful CFO has become a CF"Go".

10. Staying focused on risks and managing them

Very often CFOs have to make the toughest calls. As partners to their CEOs, they get into uncomfortable situations in which their partnership is tested to the core. As CEOs push the limits to reach key milestones, challenges arise for CFOs. Focusing on cash and constantly thinking through the risks and being able to speak the uncomfortable truths are risks that great CFOs take even if it may cost them their job.


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