Young business woman leading a business meeting

Photography: CPAs are uniquely qualified to be exceptional leaders, thanks to some of the innate attributes that draw talented people to the profession.

Accounting| The Profession

6 reasons why CPAs make great leaders

What separates the leaders from the followers—or even the managers? Find out what makes CPAs better bosses than most

Many books have been written and motivational speeches given on leadership. What makes for a great leader? How do you hone your skills as a boss? How do you effect change in a world that needs change agents, now more than ever? Well, good news: CPAs are uniquely qualified to be exceptional leaders—not just because of the extensive training we receive to get our designation, but also thanks to some of the innate attributes that draw talented people to the profession. Here are six reasons why CPAs are, more than most, up to the task of leading others.

1. We’re not afraid of the numbers

Sounds trite to say it, but CPAs don’t just deal with numbers—they embrace the oft-hidden meaning in facts and figures. And we aren’t afraid to let those facts, those numbers, speak for themselves. While people come to a leadership position via many routes, CPAs are uniquely qualified and confident on the numbers front—and in an age when numbers matter more than ever for many industries, the CPA who “gets it” is invaluable.

2. We can see the forest … AND the trees

In a truly stellar leader, you need someone who can not only see the big picture, but also understand the smallest detail. A CPA embraces both perspectives. Think about it: all the key financial statements—balance sheets, income statements and cash flow—tell you not only the very minute aspects of how a business is running (who’s spending money where, and when; what something is worth, or isn’t), but also its overall health. As every business leader knows, the executive summary doesn’t tell the whole picture—and can often mask the crucial inner truths.

3. We don’t lose our cool under pressure

Accountants are trained to deal with facts—the world as it is, rather than the world as we wish it would be. That gives us an inherently more grounded perspective as business leaders. Why govern emotionally—and get caught up in the heat of the moment fighting fires—when the numbers lay out the best path forward, and how to calmly get everyone there?

4. We don’t think in terms of silos

Perhaps more than any other business function, CPAs interact with all aspects of the business—from marketing and sales, to HR, production, IT, and more. We not only know how each department functions but how they function together; what the sweet spots are for profitability, and where the pain points for productivity lie. We bring that synthesized knowledge to the boardroom—to great effect.

5. We embrace the highest ethical standards

Accounting has more standards bodies—provincial, national and international—guiding best practices than arguably any other profession in the world. From the International Accounting Standards Board to the Global Accounting Alliance to the Prince to Wales’ Accounting for Sustainability project, Canada is an integral part of just about every international effort to build a better world through accounting. CPA Canada is a leader on issues ranging from sustainability reporting to corporate governance, and as stakeholders demand more from their leaders than “just the bottom line,” CPAs are readier than ever to embrace that challenge.

6. We question everything

OK, sometimes we can get a little annoying with all the questions—why are we doing things this way? Isn’t there a better way to do this? But just about every industry is being challenged to do things differently these days—especially as technology disrupts old business models and makes certain platforms obsolete. Who better to tackle the disruptions head-on than the CPA who isn’t afraid to dig deep on the existential questions facing an organization?