By Andrew D. Schwartz, CPA

At my firm this year, we instituted a Book Club for the first time.  We are currently reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey.  We are scheduled to discuss one habit per month for the remainder of the year.  I highly recommend that you read this book if you haven’t done so already, or re-read this book if it’s been a while since you last read it.

When reading about Habit 2, Begin With The End in Mind, I was struck by this passage from the book:

Management is a bottom line focus:  How can I best accomplish certain things?  Leadership deals with the top line: What are the things I want to accomplish?  In the words of both Peter Drucker and Warren Bennis, ‘Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.’  Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.

I found these words to be quite meaningful because I read them following a somewhat heated discussion I had with a staff member.  She was upset with me because I wasn’t able to find time to help her with a client issue that she was trying to resolve.  She was looking for me to help her get this issue right. (Ultimately we met later that morning and everything worked out fine.)

After reading this passage, I gave some thought to the roles I need to play at my 12 person CPA firm.  My first idea was to define these terms: leader, manager, supervisor, coach, and mentor.  According to


A person or thing that leads. Also, a guiding or directing head, as of an army,  movement, or political group.


A person who has control or direction of an institution, business, etc., or of a part, division, or phase of it. Also, a person who controls and manipulates resources and expenditures.


A person who supervises workers or the work done by others. defines supervises as: oversees a process, work, workers, etc. during execution or performance.


To give instruction or advice to in the capacity of a coach; instruct.


A wise and trusted counselor or teacher. Also, an influential senior sponsor or supporter.


At a professional practice the size of my firm, my brother and I are the primary source of these five positions to most of our ten-person staff.  We are not only the leaders and the managers of the firm, but, in most cases, are also the supervisors, coaches, and mentors.

If you are in a position of responsibility, I’m sure you struggle with which of these roles you play with respect to your direct reports and/or to other staff members who you interact with on a regular basis; especially when you factor in how busy you are trying to provide great care to your patients as well as running your practice.

If you have already come up with solutions to this practice management dilemma, please share them in the comments section or email me at

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