Part III: Accounting Is This, Not That: Reimagining Accounting Leadership

By: Brandon Smith, CPA

In my last article, I talked about how being the managing partner of a public accounting and advisory firm wasn’t exactly my dream. I didn’t fit the old suit-and-tie model, but I did like fresh ideas, technology and people.

It turns out that these interests are far more important than how I dress. Accounting leaders today see the bigger picture, manage teams and leverage technology. We also need to advise business owners, individuals and families about the same things.

Early in my career, I learned that I would much rather sit across from a client and offer guidance rather than sit in front of a computer. I liked getting out of the office, visiting businesses, learning how they operated and helping them reach their goals. You can create a great accounting and advisory career from these interests.

Every person is different. I learned that a great manager or firm leader asks questions to learn what makes people tick. What gets them excited? What feels like drudgery? What is easy and what is overwhelming to them?

For clients, our firm can take the drudgery and overwhelm away with our guidance and solutions. For team members, we can help them develop personalized career plans to visualize various kinds of leadership at our firm.

Leadership comes in many forms. For some, being a partner is the ultimate in success. Promotion to partner can be a fast track or it can happen in phases in between your life goals. At the best firms, you set your intentions and you set the pace.

Other people become leaders by developing new service lines, entering new industries or expanding markets. This could certainly result in a promotion to partner, but some professionals prefer to lead as technical experts. We will need many of these leaders, too, as standards, laws and technology continue to change.

Can you be a partner or technical leader while enjoying a wonderful family life? Can you pursue a deep interest or calling outside of work while also being a leader? Yes, and yes. In fact, our profession wants leaders who understand all aspects of life…because our clients are like that, too.

Future accounting and advisory leaders are relatable, sincere, honest, practical and intelligent. Some of us wear our shirts untucked. Some of us prefer a hybrid environment for people-focused days and quiet, work-focused days. Some of us, like me, don’t really “do accounting” anymore. I’m in the relationship business — inside the firm and in the community. Accounting and auditing are tools to move clients forward and provide opportunities. Our purpose in this industry is to guide financial and operational decisions to support job growth, economic stability and fulfilling lives.

If you are a college student considering accounting or you’re still in high school taking your first accounting class, explore further. We are more than credits and debits. If you are a mid-career professional looking for a change, give the accounting industry a closer look. We are attracting CPAs, MBAs, JDs, non-CPAs and many others.

We are experiencing a seismic shift in purpose and culture, and you could be the leader we need.

If you missed Part I or Part II they can be found below here:
Part II
Part I

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