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There is something missing in the accounting profession. From the base of an exceptional education, a talent for finance and budgets and leadership and strategic nous, it is the step-up to influence decision-making that comes with getting involved in politics. What the world is missing is more accountants serving in public office.

The reality is, if you really want to influence policy and make a difference in your community, you have got to put your hand up and run for office. It does not matter if it is a seat on the local school board, Governor or Premier of a state, or President or Prime Minister of a nation.

What I see are too many people who are content to play the day-to-day games with politicians, and mistake that for influence.

I see it all the time – alleged ‘leaders’ who boast about their personal relationships with politicians, somehow suggesting it is going to convert into policy change for the betterment of the economy. It is a delusion – and suggests a fear of taking the next step.

To be frank, there are many who represent us in state houses, parliaments and congresses around the world who would not know what day it was, let alone what might be good for the economy.

What is needed from strategic leaders with an accounting qualification is a confidence that their ability and relevance is nearly impossible to compete with - not only in business, but in politics as well.

I will tell you why.

The world needs a new influence. It needs vision. It needs plans. It needs to manage its resources more effectively, and it needs to innovate. Accountants are uniquely qualified to bring these skills to the political table in all the markets of the world.

By any measure, accounting is a truly globalised profession. We are guided by international standards and accepted principles. Creating these broadly accepted standards has been no mean feat. Given we have reached this point of having the 'Mr. Bean' spotlight thrust upon us on the global stage, is it not time we did something with it? Otherwise, what is the point of occupying such a significant position?

Look at our heritage. Back in the 1400s, the father of double entry accounting, Luca Pacioli, was a confidante of no less a figure than Leonardo da Vinci and empowered the merchants of Venice to achieve global trade and commercial dominance.

Pacioli made a profound difference to the world. It is what accountants can do, yet we tend to stay in the background as the professional behind-the-scenes advisor. Rarely do accountants step out to be the public voice, to seize the mantle of ultimate decision making responsibility, all of which perpetuates the common misconception that accountants merely balance the books. This blinkered image irritates me no end.

I say it is time professional accountants channeled their inner Pacioli to make a difference. It is time the profession defined itself with a brand of leadership and public commentary.

We have earned the right, but we don’t seem to know what to do with it.

The world has got big challenges. Political, economic and environmental changes which are impacting everyone, myself included. I have asked myself what the future holds for my seven children, and their children, and I have backed my concerns with actions. Through my involvement with the International Integrated Reporting Council, the Prince of Wales' Accounting for Sustainability initiative, and the International Federation of Accountants, I, with others, work to sharpen the profession’s focus on taking leadership positions on strategic issues impacting the world’s future.

Before my current role I taught in the university sector for nearly 20 years and today I continue to work hard at engendering a passion for what accounting can do for a person in expanding their life and horizons. If we want the best of the best to enter our profession in the modern era, we need to inspire them to voice their opinion, be provocative, take on difficult politics and not to respect protocol simply because that is what they think they should do.

What inspires all human beings are people who judge circumstance on its merits and have the courage to articulate the issue no one else wants to talk to. I want the debate to be about the big issues for the profession I love, and the world will be a better place with accountants in public office driving those debates. This communication to accountants is a call to arms.

Source: Alex Malley FCPA

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