Alexandra DeFelice
Alexandra DeFelice

Teach Young CPAs Well

Partners, CFOs must instill leadership skills to find their successors.

October 13, 2009
by Alexandra DeFelice/Journal of Accountancy

On the day Barry Melancon passed the CPA exam, two partners in the small Louisiana firm where he worked did something that paved the path to his role as president and CEO of the AICPA.

First, the managing partner told him he needed to make a personal contribution to the state society’s political action committee because government actions can have a significant effect on the accounting profession. Then another partner approached him and said he was making a call to the state society so Melancon could replace him on a committee on which he served.

“They wanted me to be professionally involved,” Melancon said. “It was incredible leadership on their part, but it also invoked leadership in me.”

Melancon, who began his career with that firm in 1979, made partner in 1984 and became AICPA president and CEO in 1995, said he believes that more firm leaders need to mimic what those partners did for him if they want to find their successors down the road.

“Firms have ignored the need to develop their people. We put emphasis on our technical skills, but not necessarily nurturing or mentoring,” Melancon said. “There’s a need for partners or CFOs to invest some time in that one-on-one coaching. It’s not just about the project, it’s about discussing things that are important to their development and to reinforce certain attributes.”

To address these concerns, the AICPA held its first Leadership Academy in July. It was attended by 27 CPAs under the age of 35 with at least three years experience in firms of various sizes, government, academia or business and industry. They were nominated by others in the profession who recognized their existing leadership traits and wanted to help them grow.

This article has been excerpted from the Journal of Accountancy. View the full article here.