[IMGCAP(1)]In Fall 2008, I read about AICPA Board Chair Ernie Almonte’s vision for the Leadership Academy with great interest. Fast forward eight months, where I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago and attend the Academy. After three inspiring days of networking and roundtable discussions, it was no surprise to hear Almonte express to the participants of the inaugural Academy that it was the culmination of “a dream come true.”

The Leadership Academy was “a call to service” to the 28 accounting professionals under the age of 35 who were sponsored by their employer or state society and selected by the AICPA and Almonte to benefit from the seminar. Each participant came to Chicago as a seasoned professional somehow involved in his or her community; we all departed with a new charge to assume greater responsibility for the future of our profession.

I was very impressed with the AICPA’s leadership team, which was present and interacted with us throughout the program. Almonte kicked off the first day by highlighting his (and the profession’s) core values and articulating his vision and purpose for the Academy. Barry Melancon, AICPA president and chief executive, presented an overview of the AICPA, its governance structure, the various rule-setting bodies and the current trends and issues that the next generation of CPA leaders will face. Institute staff and state society leaders were on-hand and facilitated various sessions.

Professor Marty Linsky from Harvard led several thought-provoking discussions on exercising leadership at the workplace, within the community and within the profession.  Linsky challenged our views and assumptions of leadership using the Socratic method (keeping us on our toes!). An entire article could be dedicated to sharing his leadership principles. These were six of the concepts illustrated by Linsky:

•    Technical problems can be solved by an authority or expert.  Adaptive challenges have no known solution, generate resistance and require the exercising of leadership.

•    Tips on how to spend more time dancing on the edge of your “scope of authority” to do what you are passionate about.

•    Go from the dance floor to the balcony to obtain a new perspective and observe behaviors and trends (including your own).

•    Five key relationships to manage are:  allies, opposition, senior authorities, casualties and self.

•    Do not pursue noble failure.  Rather, take smart risks with purpose.

•    How to separate your role from self.

Each of us presented an adaptive leadership challenge to three fellow participants, who in return critiqued the situation and provided objective feedback. The input was invaluable. A couple weeks now removed from the Academy and back in my workplace, I find myself still processing Linsky’s leadership concepts. I have already come across situations where the additional insights obtained from his sessions have been beneficial.

I saved the best for last: the other 27 participants. They were smart, outspoken and a pleasure to be around for our three days together.We came from all areas of the profession and the country. The result was a dynamic experience, the challenge of different points of view and plenty of knowledge sharing and networking.  I look forward to working with the other inaugural participants for many years to come.

The AICPA Leadership Academy was a success and is a new shining star for the profession. It has my highest recommendation. The AICPA is committed to identifying the future leaders of the profession and providing us with the “tool kit” and opportunity to exercise that leadership. In return, the AICPA is looking for us to get involved.  It is “a call to service” that has resonated with 28 of the future leaders of our profession.

Gregory Bedard is the  director of financial reporting at Prudential Financial in Newark, N.J.