[IMGCAP(1)] I recently read an article challenging the reader to sum up one’s leadership in six words.  I decided to apply this same challenge in describing my experience at the AICPA Leadership Academy. My six words: Amazing professionals. Thought provoking.  Life changing.  

Amazing professionals. My first experience at the Academy was being introduced to a diverse group of individuals. From professors to controllers, small to large firms, even technology and forensic related CPA’s were present in the room, and this was just a room of 28. It soon became clear to me that I was underestimating the power of the CPA certification and license. I had never, even up until the conference, considered the variety of doors having a CPA would open for me in my professional life.

My other observation at the Academy was the tremendous amount of leadership potential that was present. During group discussions no one was afraid to push the boundaries of the conversation. All the participants were able to add their piece to the pie to make it a little better and well rounded. Peer consulting sessions also demonstrated everyone’s leadership potential. All participants submitted a leadership challenge before the Academy specifically for these sessions. I was lucky enough to get two sessions: the class example and individual group. I was able to gain insight into myself, my leadership style, my leadership challenge, and take home action items to consider moving forward.  

Thought provoking. To quote Ernie Almonte, AICPA Chair, “You may feel over the next few days like you are drinking water from a water hose.”  We did. We were asked to rethink key beliefs that we had come to accept regarding leadership. Reflecting on the Academy it appears Marty Linsky, cofounder of Cambridge Leadership Associates, was filling us with nuggets of new concepts to digest and make our own. I am now applying these “nuggets” in all aspects of my life. With this, quickly came the understanding that everyone exercises leadership differently. I believe the main objective was to encourage all of us to exercise leadership more often with the understanding that two people can exercise leadership in very different ways and both obtain success.  

Life changing. The Academy connected each of us to more than 28 amazing professionals in different roles and spanning the entire country. It also changed the way I view many functions in my life, not just professionally. It emphasized separating role from oneself.  During challenging times, people aren’t challenging you directly, but the role that you are playing. The Academy encouraged all of us to remember that at all times. This could include work, home, church or other organizations.

The Academy also helped me to realize that I could have an impact on other’s professional lives, in addition to my own. Shaping the future of the profession is vital to me because I would like to bring others into it, retain them, and be a part of it myself for many years to come.

April Gunn, CPA, CISA is the director of data analysis for the auditor of public accounts at the Commonwealth of Virginia