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Reflections on the AICPA’s Leadership Academy

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the AICPA’s Leadership Academy—as a member of its third class—in Durham, NC. I was among 33 participants under the age of 36. The Academy started off like many seminars do in this mobile age, with participants glued to our smartphones and somewhat disconnected from our surroundings. But that disconnection would be short-lived.

The mood transitioned quickly to one of collaboration and engagement as the instructors—Gretchen Pisano, president Sounding Board Ink, LLC, Tom Hood, CPA, executive director and CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs and Jeannie Patton, AICPA vice president - students, academics & membership—began the Insight to Action process. We broke up into three groups to tackle three challenging real-life scenarios in business, non-profit and personal relationships. These tasks forced us to focus on the strengths of our characters, utilizing the i2A Strength Based Leadership program that we had been introduced to during our preconference workshops. The program coaches participants for leadership, teaching them self-awareness techniques, how to work from a source of natural strength and how to inspire their team to do the same.

My breakout group was tasked with the personal relationship scenario, helping a large, multi-generational family plan an annual vacation. What we learned was classic succession planning: the matriarch and patriarch of the fictional family had always taken the lead on making flight and destination arrangements and planning day-to-day activities. However, with a new dynamic involving grandchildren and in-laws, it was time for their adult children to step up and take the reins. It was a situation we could all relate to. The combination of strategic thought and the high quality of each and every participant’s contribution was amazing.

Strategic planning within the i2A model allowed us to interact, learn from one another and see, in a creative way, how our scenarios directly reflect what many of us are facing in our careers. We are all roughly the same age and coming into our time as leaders in our firms or organizations. Now, it’s not so much about building accounting experience and achievement (although that certainly plays a role). It’s more about finding within ourselves the courage and ability to mentor, guide and inspire. The experience opened my eyes to think differently—to think like a leader.

Some of us will implement the i2A process at our companies, civic organizations and in our personal lives; it will have an enormous impact on improving strategic thinking and relationships. All of us have been energized by the experience of elevating our strategic thought to the next level and breaking away from our day-to-day routines. Applying the appropriate level of strategic thought and commitment to executing a plan instills leadership. It is true leadership that creates insight to action.

Our instructors put so much enthusiasm and effort into ensuring we had the tools and techniques we needed to understand—and help others understand—the i2A process. I can speak for my entire class when I say thank you to Gretchen, Tom and Jeannie for your guidance. Thank you as well to my classmates for your commitment to moving the CPA profession and the AICPA forward. Your optimism for the future is contagious.

Finally, I would like to thank AICPA staff for organizing this terrific event and Barry Melancon, CPA, AICPA president and CEO, and Paul Stahlin, CPA, AICPA chairman, for their availability and graciousness in participating in the AICPA’s Leadership Academy. The program was wonderfully tailored at every point, and we were all proud participants.

Everyone’s commitment to leading the CPA profession and the AICPA to the next level is second to none. As an auditor, I can personally attest that our profession is in good hands for generations to come!

Joshua Partlow, CPA, Partner, Johnson Lambert & Co. LLP (Burlington, VT). Josh specializes in providing audit and tax services to insurance companies. Josh is also Vice-Chair of the Vermont Board of Public Accountancy and a 2011 participant in the AICPA Leadership Academy.

 

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