Features | From Pivot Magazine

Leading through adversity requires collaboration, says Pamela Steer

The profession is evolving, says CPA Canada’s president and CEO, and so too must its leaders

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A mixed race rowing team training on a lake at dawn We must face our collective and uncertain future united, says CPA Canada’s president and CEO, Pamela Steer. (Getty Images/ Alistair Berg)

I spent some time at The ONE conference in Halifax reflecting on this year’s theme “The Evolution of the Enterprise.” It seems particularly poignant as we navigate change and uncertainty on a number of fronts—both within the profession and the world around us.

I spoke with CPAs from across the country about the challenges they face—from navigating technological changes to the coming sustainability standards aimed at helping to track climate-related business risks and opportunities.

Those conversations really drove home how truly national and global our profession is—a sole practitioner in Truro, N.S. is impacted by the same national and global trends as a CPA working at one of the big firms in Vancouver.

That is why the profession cannot start and end in any one particular region of this increasingly interconnected world.

We must face our collective future together—as a united profession, to advance our credibility and influence at the local, national and global scale. There is a need and a place for true leadership at all three levels.

Ahead of The ONE conference in September, CPA Canada hosted a member information session where I had the privilege of hearing firsthand from members concerned about the impact of the withdrawal of two provinces from the Collaboration Accord on themselves as well as on the future of the profession as a whole.

It is true that we are all facing tremendous uncertainty right now, but I was inspired by the theme of resilience from my fireside chat with Rose Marcario, former CEO of Patagonia, a position attained through the CFO route (and the subject of our cover feature in the September edition of Pivot). As a longtime climate champion, she serves as a role model for CPAs interested in seizing uncertainty to create positive change. She is living proof that business acumen and sustainability can together create a success story.

She painted a stark picture of the urgency needed to address the existential threat of climate change and the opportunity for CPAs to lead the business community toward a more sustainable future.

“The world is changing, and people want business to take the role of being an advocate for a better world,” she told me and the audience at The ONE conference.

“The businesses that do this will be the brands of the future, the ones that will be on our lips in 20 years.”

We all want CPAs to be a part of that success story two decades from now and we want a new generation of CPAs to be leading in ways we haven’t even envisioned. We want to tell our children that we used our time to dedicate our best collective thinking to complex and global challenges—that we helped lay the groundwork through our work on climate disclosures and that we did so together.

“Winning teams get to the finish line together, not in silos”

As closing keynote speaker Lital Marom so eloquently put it: “Winning teams get to the finish line together, not in silos.”

My experiences at The ONE conference—from hearing from my Atlantic CEO counterparts about the urgency of attracting new CPAs to fill the gaps of an aging workforce to an awe-inspiring speech from Tareq Hadhad about overcoming adversity through the power of focus—steeled my resolve to do everything in my power to maintain a Canadian accounting profession with one clear objective: serving you, our members. The profession begins and ends with you.


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