2016 State of the Internal Audit Profession Study

Leadership matters: Advancing toward true north as stakeholders expect more

Leadership matters and makes a difference in the minds of stakeholders. Internal audit functions that have very effective leadership perform better and add greater value to their business. Strong internal audit leaders build functions that excel at delivering value today while they evolve to stay current with emerging business needs and risks. 

For those reasons, PwC’s 2016 State of the Internal Audit Profession Study focuses on the characteristics that define standout leadership so that stakeholders can gauge their expectations and so that internal audit leaders can reflect on their own leadership styles for achieving closer stakeholder alignment and better performance. 

PwC’s 2016 State of the Internal Audit Profession Study gathered insights globally from more than 1,600 chief audit executives (CAEs) and their stakeholders, including senior management and board members, including from Canada. We also conducted in-depth interviews in Canada to gain a deeper understanding of the internal audit issues that are on top of mind for Canadian businesses.

Key findings

Our Study identified five intangible characteristics exhibited by the most effective internal audit leaders.


Very effective internal audit leaders possess a strong vision that aligns to both the strategic direction of the organization and the expectations of stakeholders. 


Very effective leaders excel at development and mentorship of resources and have the courage to design a talent model that aligns to the business and Internal Audit’s vision. 


Strong executive positioning within the organization empowers very effective leaders to be active participants in executive meetings, provide a proactive perspective on strategic risks that the organization is facing, influence others and build a culture of controls throughout the organization.


Very effective leaders excel at communicating with stakeholders, drawing connections, effecting change, protecting the business and communicating the value delivered.

Business Alignment

Very effective leaders focus on developing relationships based on trust throughout the business. By establishing close partnerships, they become able to understand what is happening in the business, align with transformational changes, and get ahead of risks while balancing objectivity. 

Explore the global results

Use our interactive tool to explore the survey results by industry, region, respondent role, and company revenue size.