22 CFO quotes to inspire modern finance leaders

Jocelyn Ho

Published on May 9, 2022

The modern CFO is faced with constant challenges. Many juggle responsibilities across finance, admin, and operations on a daily basis. It’s not just setting up ERP systems and reporting numbers – most CFOs are now expected to be versatile and charismatic business partners in addition to finance experts.

In the rapidly evolving world of finance, learning from other professionals is key to career growth. There’s a lot to gain from sharing real-world experiences among peers and mentors.

In this article, we’ve compiled words of wisdom from successful finance leaders in our CFO Connect community, plus well-known CFOs of major brands. You’ll find both inspirational and actionable advice on important topics, from motivation and leadership as a CFO, to strategy and the future of finance.

Want more in-depth insights? We’ve also shared exclusive podcast interviews with select finance experts across different industries.

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CFO quotes on leadership

1. Leading with empathy

"I consider leadership an essential skill required to build a solid career in finance. I aim to really lead with wisdom. That means to lead with compassion and empathy, even when mistakes are made. – Alka Tandan, Senior Vice President of Finance & Strategic Programs at Gainsight

🎧 Listen and read the recap from Alka’s full podcast episode.

2. Leading as a modern CEO

"Operating a global business in a fast-changing world, you have to be grounded real-time in the external environment, have complete transparency, be fact-based and working with a great, collaborative team." – Bob Shanks, CFO at Ford

3. Overcoming impostor syndrome

“The first step to move past impostor syndrome is similar to self-awareness. It’s about observing what thoughts you’re having, and how they impact how you operate. Then, you need to start reframing those negative thoughts. In a nutshell, what you're doing is trying to change your belief system.” – Catherine Clark, Executive Mentor and former CFO

🎧 Listen and read the recap from Catherine’s full podcast episode.

4. Finance leaders need to be storytellers

“At the end of the day, finance leaders have to be proper storytellers. You have to be constantly on top of your data and tell the story behind the numbers.” – Gerardo Adame, VP Finance at XP Power

🎧 Listen and read the recap from Gerardo’s full podcast episode.

5. Communicating as a leader

“Listen to all the voices in the room. Because sometimes, the strongest and best advice is delivered in a whisper, not in a shout.” – Chad Martin, CFO at MeridianLink

🎧 Listen and read the recap from Chad’s podcast episode.

CFO quotes on motivation

6. Making a positive impact on society

“There’s a shrouded cliche about what finance is, as if finance teams are only looking into budgets, ways to increase revenue etc, but not worrying about anything else - including having negative effects on the world. It's up to us, as finance leaders, to ensure our organization is being a good steward of the money that we receive regardless of whether it’s a for-profit or non-profit organization. – Cyra Copeland, Director of Finance at Creative Commons

💻 Read more about Cyra’s finance journey.

7. Changing expectations of young finance professionals

“Young finance leaders really want to focus on strategy and impact. They expect to minimize the busy work and to actually put the emphasis on analysis interpretation. This way, they can really feel like what they're doing impacts and improves the business.” – Chad Martin, CFO at MeridianLink

8. Let them say “no”

“In my family we have a motto: let them say ‘no’. It’s applicable in practically any situation. As a CFO, I have to ask for help from banks or from the government administration. You just have to try and if they say ‘no’, it’s ok - at least we tried.” – Elodie Hadjidakis, CFO at Habiteo

🎧 Listen and read the recap from Elodie’s podcast visit.

9. Maintaining motivation in remote work

“I think the concern of losing the culture when going remote is more about the fear of losing control. At Remote, one of our key values is ownership, so we don't have control by default, we really encourage each one of us to make their decisions and push things forward proactively.” – Pedro Barros, VP of Finance at Remote

🎧 Listen to and read about Pedro's episode of CFO Yeah!

10. Balancing your personal and professional identity

“Keep true to yourself, and be authentic. Don't change yourself for an organization. Go find one that likes you just the way that you are.” – Heather Dixon, CFO of Everside Health

🎧 Here's Heather’s full episode of the CFO Yeah! podcast.

11. Empowering women in finance

“A lot of women stop negotiating at a certain point in the process because they're afraid of not getting the job, or getting fired. And I always tell them, this is not the case. If you're good at what you do, it will never cost you the role.” – Jana Ludwig-Martyushev, VP of Finance at omni:us

🎧 Check out Jana’s full podcast episode of CFO Yeah!

CFO quotes on finance strategy

12. Seeing the bigger picture

“Finance has to be a partner to the business with the help of data. It’s all about questioning whether the decisions made by the company are making sense both internally and externally.” – Gerardo Adame, VP Finance at XP Power

13. Saving for long-term growth

“If you save a dollar, you’ll drop a dollar to the bottom line. But if you save a dollar and you reinvest that back into the business in a disciplined way, a returns-based way, that dollar is actually worth a lot more in the future. And that’s really what running a business is all about.” — Cathie Lesjak, CFO of HP

14. Versatility in the CFO role

“I think we need to recognize that the CFO role can mean a lot of different things in different businesses. It really depends on the type of business, their strategy and the type of skills they want the CFO to lead on.” – Dan Wells, CFO at GrowCFO

🎧 Listen to Dan’s podcast episode.

15. Sharing data with non-finance teams

"If you want the team to move in the same direction, you need to show them how the work they do every day translates into numbers and facts.” – Camille Soulier, CFO at Germinal

🎧 Read more about Camille’s data approach at CFO Connect.

16. Hiring the right talent

“From a finance hiring perspective, you need to hire the best athletes who want to be part of a high-performance team. You also need leaders who are superhuman. We accomplish things every day that have never been done. Roles change constantly, so you need team members who are flexible, thrive in a world of explosive growth and are simply hungry to learn and grow their careers.” – Brian Roberts, CFO of Lyft

17. Planning ahead of execution

“I want milestones. I want to know in six months when we’re sitting down with the midyear plan, what would you like to have achieved? Everybody has to have a plan against which they’re executing.” – Ruth Porat, CFO of Alphabet/Google

CFO quotes on the future of finance

18. Staying flexible in a volatile market

"With an increasingly integrated world economy, be prepared to respond to higher levels of both risk and opportunity. A strong balance sheet is a tremendous asset when managing through periods of volatility.” – Pat Yarrington, CFO at Chevron

19. No risk, no reward

“Risk is neutral. Without it, there's no reward. We have to shift the finance team’s mindset from “no risk taking” to “taking the right risks”. Yes, you will fail from time to time, but you will also learn from it.” – Anders Liu-Lindberg, COO and Partner at the Business Partnering Institute

🎧 Listen to Anders’ podcast episode at CFO Connect.

20. Battling for data

“FP&A (financial planning and analysis) used to hold all the cards; they had all the data at their fingertips. Nowadays, valuable data resides across the business. It’s a battle to find out who has the best data, much less what this data is. Otherwise, a vacuum will develop that smart executives will fill up with their own data. The CFO has to be on top of information flow at all times.” – Mark Partin, CFO of BlackLine

21. A growing need for innovation

“The industry is in the middle of its biggest change since its inception. Mobility is a key topic of the decade, if not the century. The need for innovation has eventually arrived in the industry, and most players are finally stepping up their game to stay relevant in the upcoming years. Those who adapt to changing circumstances will prevail.” – Jeannette Waldschläger, Head of Finance and Accounting at PAIR Finance

💻 Read more about Jeanette’s finance journey on the CFO Connect website.

22. Evolution of the CFO

“Just as organizations continuously evolve with the ever-changing global business climate, the role of a CFO is bound to change. A CFO needs to go beyond being ‘the finance operations expert’ to become a corporate strategist who can enhance the firm’s valuation and brand, and win over stakeholders’ trust and goodwill.” – Maureen O’Connell, Former CFO of Scholastic

Join CFO Connect

Being a part of a strong network of CFOs can change your career. Join the CFO Connect community to meet fellow industry experts and gain access to valuable resources like our exclusive Slack group, podcast interviews, fintech meetup events, and more.

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