September 2021: Transformative Leadership

Transformative Leadership – From CPA to Firm Leader By: Lea Rasmussen

Professional development of an organization’s leaders and staff is a key driver in the success of the organization.  Lea Rasmussen, who joined Warren Whitney last month, has benefitted from thoughtful professional development.  We asked her to share her development path, its impact on her firm and resources that could be particularly helpful to others.


Having recently joined Warren Whitney after a 20-year career with a CPA firm, I realize now that all of my prior career experiences and learnings have prepared me for my new journey as Fractional CFO/Controller with Warren Whitney. Over this past year of discernment, I began to reflect on the most valuable lessons I learned. As a CPA, I was accustomed to spending countless hours reading financial statements, studying accounting standards, and evaluating internal control processes. While I thrived on the numbers part of the business, the transformative experience for me was when I attended a three-year leadership academy.

This program set me on a new path. My firm leadership responsibilities grew, and I became the partner in charge of staff development. I embraced this new role. I loved working with the team, creating opportunities for employees, and developing the future leaders for our firm. As head of staff development, I implemented a new system that focused on working with individuals to define and support their career goals. Our team responded positively to this new program. Overall, our employees’ skillsets improved, and we created new and exciting opportunities that leveraged individual strengths.

In addition to this, I also started a mentorship program. The goal of this program was to tap into the existing knowledge, skills, and experience of senior employees and transfer these skills to newer or less experienced employees to advance their careers. This program also helped identify the next generation of leaders who were put on a track to attend the three-year leadership academy.

When I took on my staff development role, I also served as a board member for three nonprofits in the Richmond community. I loved being a part of the strategic planning process and fundraising campaigns. The combination of the leadership academy, new responsibilities at work and working closely with many industries including nonprofits made me realize that the next stage of my career should focus on leading organizations, specifically as a fractional/interim CFO.

While I embark on this new chapter with Warren Whitney, I have referred to my top books that helped me better understand what it means to maximize leadership potential and develop engaged teams. Here are two of the many books I found impactful and serve as a reminder of what it takes to be a great steward and to foster engaged teams.

Book #1. Strengths-Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams and Why People Follow by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie

The book follows four leaders who leveraged their dominant strength to drive organizational growth. Their case studies prove why playing to one’s strength will lead to positive results. In particular, I like this book because it includes an assessment that helps discover individual strengths, which supports engagement. I led and participated in several of these group exercises and found the results incredibly accurate and impactful. Not only is it FUN, but it creates a common language and provides an opportunity to learn more about one another.

Book #2. The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni

This book is written as a fable which makes for an enjoyable read. Most of us agree being a team player is a desirable quality in any employee or job candidate, but they can be rare. Lencioni proves to the reader why we want to surround ourselves with team players in our organizations. He provides a framework for the ideal team player in simple terms: humble, hungry, and smart. This book has real-world applications, like assessing current employees and developing employees who lack one of the virtues, it also serves as a valuable hiring tool.

When there is both a need for better leaders and talent, these books can help expand your personal balance sheet and improve employee engagement and enhance the hiring process.



Lea Rasmussen joins Warren Whitney as Director of Finance & Accounting. She works with clients seeking fractional and interim CFO services. She brings over 20 years of experience helping organizations in accounting, finance, and executive leadership in both the nonprofit and private sectors. To learn how Lea or our other consultants can support your business, contact Stephanie Ford at or 804.282.9566.