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What makes a great accounts payable team leader

by Jamie Radford


The team leader is at the heart of the AP department and if they are not great at all aspects of their job, they have little chance of successfully leading a cohesive AP team. Whatever the size of the business, accounts payable is always going to be an integral part of it, and without a capable person at the helm to lead the team, accounts payable overall as a department is not going to flourish in the way it could.


AP staff members need to know that their line manager has their best interests at heart, as well as the company’s. It not just about results and reaching targets anymore, sticking to specified time frames, creating seamless processes within the department… Rather, staff need to feel that they are actually valued as part of the team and the AP team leader has a significant part to play in that. As well as ensuring staff are respected and guided to do their jobs in the way the company might expect, it is important that the team leader implements processes to streamline the accounts payable function so that the company can grow year upon year – and the AP department is a major cog in this machine.


Happy AP team members make it all the more efficient!


For some AP team leaders, whether newly promoted or having worked in a management role for some time, leading a team does not always come easy. Some team leaders will take to the role like a duck to water, whereas others are so used to being part of a wider team, working only on specific projects without any managerial duties, that leading the rest of the team may not initially come naturally to them.


Here are some tips to ensure that your role as an accounts payable team leader is as successful as it can be…


Make Decisions Promptly

Making decisions is part and parcel of the team leader’s role but even if you are not sure what decision to settle on, a good team leader will be decisive and lead the team. “Umming and aahing” is not a good idea to gain the respect of the team. Even if the decision was the wrong one, a good manager will swiftly work to rectify the mistake and lead the team to the next best outcome. There is not much worse than a weak manager who can’t be decisive or expects the buck to stop with the team instead of him/herself – and it’s a good way to lose the respect of your team!


Consider Others in the Team

A good AP team leader takes into consideration all the other members of their team. When your own manager asks you for your input on something, how does it make you feel? Probably like your voice actually matters and that your boss respects you… Managers who include their team in decision making and take notice of their opinions on the whole have much more cohesive and loyal teams than those who don’t.


Know Your Strengths

Successful AP team leaders know what their strengths are as well as how they could help to build their department and shape their team to contribute to the overall success of the company. Good team leaders also know that they should delegate what they are not so good at to others who are.


Use Your Strengths

It’s all good and well knowing your strengths but it’s a whole ‘nother thing to use them – don’t forget to implement your strengths in your day to day working life and you’ll soon start to see you really are an effective team leader!


Foster Visibility Both Internally and Externally

To keep working with valued suppliers, it is important to keep them satisfied too. Collaboration and fostering a culture of visibility with both internal and external stakeholders can help to improve payment processing times and reduce delays, further enhancing your strength as a team leader in the AP department.


Champion Automation

It’s no longer just a buzz word – automation is the future – and not only within accounts payable but it certainly does make the department run smoother on the whole. Hopefully your company is on its way to implementing automation throughout the AP process because it goes a very long way in saving time, reducing costly mistakes, improving staff productivity levels and effectively handling exceptions – and it helps to make the AP department seriously efficient!


Fraud Protection Measures

Policies and procedures that have been specifically created for your AP department and that are reasonable and realistic should be in place to mitigate the risks of fraud. Not only is wide-scale fraud a major problem, it can crop up in most unlikely of places, so as a team leader, part of your job is to ensure that these procedures are followed by every single member of the AP team. It goes without saying that multiple check points are an absolute must if this is not already one of your procedures.


Play a Part in Vendor Relations

The vendors should ideally know you by name and know that you are at the other end of the phone or an email if they ever need you. This helps vendors to feel more confident when dealing with your company, and as a team leader within the AP department, your longevity is likely to be longer than most of your subordinates alongside your augmented ability to negotiate additional payment terms being in a more senior position. Sometimes you just need to be the one to step in when the department needs it most.



If you would like to progress your career within accounts payable and move into team leadership, or perhaps you have recently moved into a leadership role but feel that your skills need development. Maybe you feel that formal certification would benefit you. Either way, if you want to develop yourself in effectively leading your team, our APA Team Leader Certification could be just what you need.


Click here to find out more, and please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions!


And don’t forget the APA Annual Conference and Expo is happening on 15th October 2019 in Birmingham – if you haven’t already arrange your tickets, get them NOW…



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