A Legacy of Leadership

Later this month we will say farewell to our esteemed Chairman, Ken Hughes, as he begins retirement. Ken represents one of the only named partners still practicing in a U.S. Top 20 Accounting firm. The legacy of leadership he leaves with us is tremendous, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have learned from him and worked alongside him for the past several years. 

In working with Ken, I am reminded on a daily basis of the importance of leadership and what it takes to be an effective leader. In celebration of Ken’s legacy, I’d like to take a moment to share with you a few leadership lessons that stand out to me: 

Respect everyone

The values that Ken has adhered to throughout his career are reflected in our own firm values: Trust, Relationships, Passion and Innovation. One thing that our people may not know about Ken’s leadership style is his utmost respect for every DHG partner, regardless of circumstance. He truly strives to represent our values and achieve fairness among all partners by gaining input and consensus from the entire partnership whenever major decisions are on the table, using our values as his guiding principles. That does not mean that everyone’s opinion is going to be perfectly reflected in the outcome, but it does mean that everyone has been given the opportunity to give input to help us achieve the best outcome for the firm. Getting to watch this in action is one of the more impressive and impactful things that I am privy to in working alongside Ken.

Gather the data before making decisions

Through Ken, I have learned what decision making as a leader looks like. Gathering all relevant facts before answering a question or coming to a conclusion is key. This is especially important when you are under pressure or if it is an emotionally charged issue, which can happen in many levels of leadership. As a leader you must rise above the emotions of an issue and be as objective as possible as you determine what the right answer is for the entire firm. In doing so, you really cannot afford to make a hasty decision. The credibility of the firm and you as a leader is at stake, and that is why it is so crucial to have all of the facts.

Begin developing leadership skills early in your career

Developing leadership skills is part of the development of the whole professional, which is something both Ken and I are very passionate about for our people. Leadership is an acquired skill that must be developed incrementally throughout one’s career. Learning to be a leader takes experience and practice. That is exactly why our professionals are encouraged to take advantage of leadership opportunities at a very early stage in their careers. It is critical for us as a firm to have leaders at all levels and of diverse backgrounds and perspectives, because not only do our leaders help drive performance and deliver solutions, they also help to perpetuate our mission, strategy and values.

Put the Team before Yourself

Perhaps the greatest attribute our firm has learned from Ken is being a humble leader.  Ken has always said, “It is not about me or any one partner; it is about the firm.”  This selfless approach, combined with his strong drive to succeed, has taught so many of us about what it really takes to put a team in front of any one individual so that everyone can win.

We honored Ken at our annual Partners Meeting last fall, and as a part of that celebration, we prepared a video compiling reflections from many people who have been impacted by him.  As we tried to incorporate some of his thoughts into the video, Ken was caught in off-camera dialogue demonstrating his usual, humble self, asking that the video not be about him but about the firm; we chose to leave in these “Classic Ken” moments at the beginning. Please enjoy this video.

On behalf of the entire firm, I would like to thank Ken for his fearless leadership and for laying the groundwork to build DHG to where it stands today. Ken has been a role model to many and his legacy of leadership will continue across our DHG family for years to come. Thank you Ken!