Academic journal article Management Accounting Quarterly

Integrating Leadership Experiences into the Accounting Curriculum: Vince Lombardi States That "Leaders Aren't Born, They Are Made." but What Are Accounting Educators Doing to Address This Skill? This Article Describes a Technique for Integrating Practical Leadership Experience into the Accounting Curriculum

Academic journal article Management Accounting Quarterly

Integrating Leadership Experiences into the Accounting Curriculum: Vince Lombardi States That "Leaders Aren't Born, They Are Made." but What Are Accounting Educators Doing to Address This Skill? This Article Describes a Technique for Integrating Practical Leadership Experience into the Accounting Curriculum

Article excerpt

In the March 2008 issue of Strategic Finance, Peter Brewer described management accounting as a "leadership-oriented career path" and identified leadership as one of the profession's four pillars. (1) The importance of this skill is not new, as calls continue for accounting educators to develop students' soft skills, including communication, teamwork, and leadership. Nevertheless, leadership skills are often overlooked as part of students' academic training. Do faculty assume that students either possess leadership ability or they don't? Warren G. Bennis, a pioneer leadership expert and professor at the University of Southern California and Harvard University, commented on the danger of this premise:

"The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born--that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That's nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born."

But what are accounting educators doing to help students learn this skill? Unfortunately, the accounting literature offers little guidance to help faculty incorporate and evaluate leadership. This article helps fill this apparent gap by providing a relatively straightforward strategy for adding practical leadership experiences to the accounting curriculum. We also describe how to assess students' leadership performance and discuss differences in students' perceptions when they are involved in leadership activities.

BACKGROUND

In response to the many calls for change in accounting education, we redesigned our junior-level undergraduate cost accounting course. The revamped course represents a shift from a traditional lecture orientation to a more competency-focused, active-learning, managerial cost accounting environment. As part of the course-planning process, we surveyed participants attending the Educators' Roundtable at a recent Institute of Management Accountants (IMA[R]) Annual Conference. The practitioners' input helped us select the following competencies to emphasize in the revised course--leadership, teamwork, oral and written communication, and technology skills. In this article, we describe our efforts to add leadership-related activities to the class.

LEADERSHIP EXPERIENCE

A multifaceted concept, leadership can be defined in a variety of ways. In a recent article, Robert J. Kramer attempts to summarize the concept of leadership into a succinct definition. (2) He describes leadership as a process involving the interactions among the leader and group members where the leader influences the group to attain organizational goals.

How can faculty help students acquire leadership skills? According to Sir Antony Jay, author of the classic management book, Management & Machiavelli: A Prescription for Success in Your Business, "The only real training for leadership is leadership." To allow students to practice their leadership skills, we introduce an individual leadership experience as an extension of group projects. The groups consist of three randomly assigned students and generally remain intact throughout the semester. These faculty-assigned teams require students to work with individuals they may not know and who have different backgrounds. Random assignment also forms groups of students who possess varying degrees of ability and skills and often results in conflicting schedules. Consequently, students are more likely to engage their leadership and team-building skills because they are prevented from creating groups with their friends or usual work team. Thus, we believe these predefined groups parallel the real world where employees are assigned to teams so they can complete short-term tasks.

We use small groups for several reasons. First, small groups permit each student to serve as the group's leader throughout an entire project. …

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