Female leaders in accounting: Leah Turner

CPA Leah Turner shares the career path she took to become a leader in the accounting field.

  • Title: Financial Analyst
  • Organization: Tourmaline Oil Corp., Calgary
  • Number of employees: 75
  • University: 2001, B Comm Accounting Finance, University of Alberta
  • Designation year: 2004

Leah Turner has come a long way since her days as a self-proclaimed “cocky” student at Deloitte. “I thought I could do no wrong back then,” she admits.

“That attitude led to a rather unhappy first two years. Once I learned I wasn’t ‘all that and a bag of chips,’ and earned a dose of humility, things definitely improved. Experience is a valuable thing, and people get it from learning from their mistakes. The ability to learn from mine led me to where I am now.”

At Tourmaline, her main responsibility is to make sure all statutory and regulatory requirements are in place, including quarterly and annual reports, tax, Canadian Sarbanes-Oxley (CSOX) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

“It used to be a one-person show,” she says, “which meant I was responsible for ensuring all non-financial reporting employees were doing what was necessary to remain compliant in all areas. The financial reporting team recently expanded to include three or four other members, all in senior or consulting positions. I have taken the role as point person, but I think it’s crucial we work as a team — not a hierarchy.”

Most of Turner’s convictions about leadership lean toward co-operation. “It takes a team to build a great company. Each person’s role is as valuable as the next. We should all trust and respect each other,” she says

“I believe in ethics, and I also think that if you do good things, you will be rewarded. Looking after your staff will pay back in multiples.

“I am proactive and decisive and I’m not afraid to speak up. Most important, though, I believe in looking at the big picture. Good leaders don’t get caught up in the details,” she says from her office at Tourmaline, an oil and gas exploration and development company founded two years ago.

Delegating is important too. “If you keep too much on your plate, you can’t assess, analyze and plan. Plus, you need your employees to know that you trust and value them enough to do the work.”

Her ideas about governing spring from the most original sources. “Everything I have learned about being a leader has been through observations of people I respected as leaders, including those who have mentored me. I have also learned a lot from people I did not think were effective.”

Ultimately, she says, it’s a “delicate balance of empathy, understanding and toughness,” that leads to success at the helm.

In a small company like Tourmaline, advancement can be limited. Turner’s immediate boss is the CFO. She has no plans, however, of moving on.

“I love my job and am completely content with it. There are always challenges in this industry with new regulations, and with the company’s growth, things are hardly ever stale. Later on, I may take on a somewhat higher position.”

To satisfy her need to grow professionally and develop skills as a director, she will volunteer on various boards, including both not-for-profit and profitable companies.

This year, Turner and her husband became parents, adding a whole other dimension to their lives.

“It’s a new challenge,” she says, “but what would life be without challenges?”


  • 2001 – 2005: Deloitte, Calgary
  • 2005 – 2006: Suncor, Calgary
  • 2006 – 2008: Duvernay Oil Corp, Calgary
  • 2009 – present: Tourmaline Oil Corp., Calgary

Update 2013:

In February, Turner was back at Tourmaline in her role as Financial Analyst after a second maternity leave. She has been volunteering “a lot,” and co-founded the Alberta CA Community Ambassadors, which connects chartered accountants who want to offer their financial expertise to not-for-profit organizations. “So far, it has been a really positive experience,” she says.