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Creating the next generation of CPA leaders

2019 AICPA Leadership Academy group photo (1)There is little doubt that the accounting profession is undergoing major change. New technologies, like blockchain, data analytics and artificial intelligence, are altering how services are provided and redefining the types of services clients need. 

To meet these new demands of capital markets, CPA firms must make sure their employees possess or learn the necessary technology skills. They also need to attract leaders capable of navigating the changing profession, and these leaders will ideally bring fresh talent along with them. That’s where the AICPA’s Leadership Academy comes in.

The annual four-day event held in Durham, NC gathers young CPAs from around the country to learn what it means to be a leader, strategies for developing leadership skills and tools to advance their careers and professions.

At this year’s Academy, leadership coaches guided 36 participants through a variety of skill-building exercises and programs. AICPA leadership, including Bill Reeb, AICPA chair, and Barry Melancon, president and CEO of the American Institute of CPAs and CEO of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, offered the practical guidance and expertise that comes from years as a leader.

“I walked away with a new understanding of how I could influence my environment through my actions,” said 2019 graduate Charlene Rhinehart, CPA with CEO Unlimited, LLC. “This experience made me take a deeper look at how I lead, respond to others and show up in the spaces I occupy. It taught me that what got me here won't get me to my next level, and I'm enthused about the opportunity to continuously develop an adaptive mindset.”

Cultivating an adaptive mindset was an overarching theme of the Academy. The leaders of tomorrow need to be prepared to manage through change, continually adapting to new technologies and marketplace demands.

“The rate of technological change will never again be as slow as it is today,” Melancon reminded attendees.

Future leaders need the ability to adapt – to learn, unlearn, and relearn. This means maintaining an open and adaptive mindset, and being willing to consider new approaches. Start by investigating your own beliefs and then expand to other perspectives.

“Adaptation is best done as an inside-out job,” said 2019 Academy Graduate Jana Walker, CPA and an accounting instructor at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. “We start by investigating our own beliefs and developing a mature inner-game before working on our outer-game. The future of our profession is largely dependent on our ability to not just change but to do it well.”

This requires building a strong support team. It’s all about people, as Reeb told attendees. That starts with finding and hiring the right individuals.

Dalton Sweaney, CPA and a partner with Gray, Salt & Associates, pointed out that there isn’t always enough focus on building a pipeline of talent into an organization. But after completing the Leadership Academy, he intends to put more effort into planning for the future, including looking for ways to leverage technology, build capacity and ensure he has the right people in the right positions.

Change can stir up trepidation and fears of the unknown, but the Leadership Academy showed attendees a path forward, inspiring them to lead and adapt. For 2019 Leadership Academy Graduate Jose Borbon, a CPA with Kearny Bank, the program prepared him to evolve with the industry and created new excitement for the profession.

“The Leadership Academy has motivated me to be an advocate for the upcoming changes to our profession,” he said. “There are exciting times ahead!”

Learn more about the Leadership Academy or apply to be part of the 2020 class today.

You can also stay abreast of the latest trends, technology and topics in the profession through AICPA webinars, such as Robotic Process Automation Strategy for Business Leaders, Blockchain for Financial Advisors and the Data Analytics Executive Series.

James Gallagher – Media Relations Manager, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

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