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Today's CPA

It’s Your Time

Older generations telling you you’re too young for a leadership role? show them how ready you really are.
Todd Shapiro ICPAS President & CEO


You’re a Millennial and constantly hear that your generation is so different from generations past. You’re told that you’re impatient, you want to move up too quickly and you want to be a decision-maker too soon. Here’s my thought on that—it’s malarkey.

I recall another generation that was impatient, moved up quickly and became decision makers at a young age. They’re called Baby Boomers.

Now, though, it’s your time.

Firms and businesses are facing an unprecedented loss of people and talent to retirement. The AICPA projects that 75 percent of CPAs will retire over the next 15 years. This unprecedented people and talent drain will require Millennials and Gen Xers to step into senior management and leadership positions in the very near future.

So, what’s the difference between the transfer of leadership today and that of the Baby Boomers 30 years ago?

Back then, business was growing rapidly, creating unlimited opportunities for young Baby Boomers to assume senior leadership positions. This was the case in corporations and accounting firms alike. In fact, many of the most successful accounting firms today started in the business expansion era.

Now fast forward to 2017. The transfer of leadership is just that—transfer not expansion. As such, those who ascend to leadership need to demonstrate that they are ready for the role.

How do you do that? My advice is to grab every opportunity you get to demonstrate your leadership potential. Don’t wait for someone to give it to you or tell you what to do. That just won’t cut it. No matter where you work or what you are working on, show that you can lead and think strategically.

How does that jive with the general consensus that you’re impetuous and impatient? It’s all in the presentation. Taking the opportunity to lead and think strategically doesn’t necessarily mean your ideas will be implemented; however, I assure you that most people will notice, appreciate and reward your intent.

Now for you Baby Boomers. Next time you think about how young your staff is and how they want to move up so quickly, I ask you to think back. What were your expectations when you were in your late 20s and early 30s? When you became a partner in a firm or director in a corporation, did you think it was too soon? I very much doubt it.

In the end, we, and by that I mean we Baby Boomers, have faith in you Millennials. We know that you can step up and grab the leadership reins. However, our impending retirements are not waiting for a slow, methodical development plan. This is your time.