Leadership in the Corporate World

BY OLIVIA F. KIRTLEY

CPAs are going places. Fast. In recent years, the acceleration of transformation from supporting and information roles to leadership roles has been tremendous. CPAs are moving to the top of organizations and into the boardroom in increasing numbers. Demand for CPA leadership has never been greater.

Throughout history, the CPA profession has always held to its core values of competence, integrity and objectivity. Now, CPAs have emerged as thought leaders who embrace change and provide solutions for emerging challenges. CPAs have been the stimulus for fresh initiatives to address needs in a rapidly changing business world.

As we entered the 21st century, the profession recognized the emergence of expanding business needs and initiated a completely new and computerized Uniform CPA Examination that tests not only candidates knowledge, but also their skills in areas such as research, technology and communications. Employerswhether in companies or in firmsdemand those skills today, and the profession acted to ensure that those who hold the CPA credential will continue to display the competence and excellence that we have come to stand for.

CPAs are moving into leadership roles on all business fronts. In years past, CPAs were viewed primarily in financial leadership roles, but rarely as full-scope business leaders. That has changed. As business complexity has increased, we have gained the respect of both management and investors who understand that our financial acumen and core values have much broader application that can greatly benefit corporate America. CPAs are being sought after as valuable partners in leadership alongside boards and CEOs. Our leadership roles have been widely embraced as essential to the success and future viability of businesses.

On this 100th anniversary of the Journal of Accountancy, much of the CPA world has changed. However, CPAs from a century ago would easily recognize us as we continue to hold to the core values they established for this great profession. They would also see that we have not settled for a little piece of land in the business arena but have recognized our territory to be far reaching, and are constantly looking for ways to expand our impact and contribution as the business world and public expectations continue to evolve.

Olivia F. Kirtley, CPA, is a former chair of the AICPA board of directors, the first woman and first CPA in business and industry to hold the title. She also chaired the AICPA board of examiners during the development of the computerized CPA exam. She is a consultant on strategic and governance issues and a corporate director of several public companies.

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