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The AICPA’s Leadership Academy Doesn’t Sound So Awful After All

First, I never implied the AICPA Leadership Academy was awful in the first place, I just to make sure we’re clear on that. I only use “awful” because you lot seem like the sort of people who mostly care about money and fulfillment, with neither of those necessarily mutually exclusive. It’s totally fine, we can’t all be leaders.

But one day, you kids are going to inherit the empire (scary, I know). When all the Boomer partners have retired and you’re looking at filing 2025’s tax returns, will you be at the top of the food chain setting the tone or still lingering at the bottom picking up DUIs on Saturday nights? Just think about it.

Anyway, the following is an account of the AICPA’s recent Leadership Academy in North Carolina by Joshua Partlow. Joshua is a CPA under 40 and a partner at Johnson Lambert & Co. LLP. I share it with you guys only because it’s pretty interesting, which can’t usually be said for a lot of the pro-industry fluff we come across.

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.

Why am I not surprised to see Tom Hood’s name show up?

Anyway, it’s too late to get on board for 2011 but if any of this sounds remotely interesting to you (hint: “leadership” = “getting people to do your evil bidding”), details on the 2012 Leadership Academy will be issued by the AICPA in January.