What Does It Take to Lead?

Here is a look at the top trends driving change in the profession and the leadership attributes young CPAs need to make an impact now and in the future.

May 17, 2016

On April 21, we participated in a live webcast with AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon. In the webcast, we talked about his view of the top trends driving change in our profession and the leadership attributes young CPAs need to make an impact now and in the future. In this article, we share a few of the trends that we discussed and insights into what young CPAs need to lead.

In the webcast, Melancon shared a number of significant trends and issues that require young CPAs to think and act differently. They include:

  • Continued complexity of new regulations and standards.
  • Moving beyond flex and work/life balance to work/life integration.
  • Leveraging technology to enable work/life integration and to help us work smarter, not harder.
  • Increased learning opportunities and changes to the CPA exam

Although change may be difficult, it’s inevitable. We all get comfortable with the way things are, and our conservative profession has a reputation of being contemplative and somewhat slow to embrace the very essence of change.

Melancon said that as a profession, we have many examples of how we have evolved over time. He shared an example of how it took several years to get approval to use a calculator in the CPA exam, then it only took a few short months to make the exam computerized (and a little longer to implement!). Now, the exam focuses on testing higher-order cognitive skills such as critical thinking and analytical ability and less on memorization.

Change is happening, and CPAs are poised and ready now more than ever. Melancon invited all young CPAs to learn from and listen to those who have paved the way to where we are now and use that understanding to continue to drive innovation in their firms, organizations, and communities.

We also discussed the most important leadership attributes young CPAs must exhibit to lead. We agreed that it is critical to be ready for change, to listen, and to learn about the current state and then be solutions-oriented and implement new ideas and innovative ways of doing business. To do this, visioning is required. Effective leaders take the time to envision, anticipate, and prepare for the future. NHL great Wayne Gretzky has a famous leadership quote that embodies this idea: “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.”

Giving back is another leadership attribute that we agreed young CPAs should develop. You will make a bigger impact when you get involved with your community, state society, and the profession. And we both expressed to Melancon that our involvement in the Leadership Academy, state society, AICPA committees, and other areas always benefits us more than the effort or time we give. We encourage young CPAs to find a place to contribute and give back. You’ll be amazed at the return!

Melancon summed up these ideas with a way to get involved today by voting for the AICPA member ballot. The ballot proposes that the AICPA and The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) create a new association that serves all of accounting, while preserving the membership bodies of both organizations. This proposal demonstrates our profession’s leadership responding to market trends so that we are ready to embrace—even shape—the change in our profession. As young CPAs, we need to stay informed and vote on issues put forward by our membership organization. More information about the member ballot and the link to vote are available at aicpa.org/horizons.

We love the accounting profession and feel that there is no better time to be a CPA! And we feel honored to have spent an hour with Melancon discussing these important leadership ideas.

In case you missed the webcast, you can access the recording by clicking here. We hope you will identify actions you can take to elevate your leadership, drive change, and make a personal impact on your employer, your community, and within the profession.  

Amy Cooper, CPA, CGMA, is an accounting instructor with the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Fairbanks, Alaska, and an AICPA Leadership Academy graduate. Michael Elliott, CPA, is a principal with Dittrick CPA in Burton, Ohio, and an AICPA Leadership Academy graduate.

The Edge
e-newsletter, is dedicated to providing tips and tools of interest to young professionals, including articles on building career resiliency, networking for success, and de-prioritizing the immediate to focus on the important. Watch for it in your inbox. Subscribe at http://spr.ly/EDGENL.