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Accounting & Audit

Sarah Elliott, CPA, ACC – 2019 Most Powerful Women in Accounting


Sarah Elliott, CPA, ACC

2019 Most Powerful Women in Accounting
Co-Founder & Principal
Intend2Lead LLC
BBA Accounting, Texas A&M


What advice would you give to female college students about the opportunities for women in the accounting profession?

The opportunities are truly limitless. Accounting provides an incredibly strong foundation for nearly anything else you might want to do in the business world.

This profession is changing fast, so who knows what it will look like in a few years. Just jump in with a learning mindset, try as many new and diverse things as you can, and see what possibilities present themselves to you. Accounting is simply the starting point to creating whatever it is you truly want for your career!

What would you suggest to accounting firms that are interested in retaining and advancing more qualified female staff?

Many people, whether female or male, leave an organization because they don’t see an existing path that fits them.

Embrace a true coaching culture at your firm! Make your firm a place where people are free to explore who they are and what matters to them. Then, give them the space to be who they are and create what they want within your organization. It will probably feel scary at first, but with open minds and an intention to listen, learn and grow together, both of you will be pleasantly surprised!

Why did you choose to work in – and stay in – the accounting field?

I initially chose to work in accounting because the sense of order and balance appealed to me. Everything made such logical sense, and accounting is so helpful to understand and explain what happens in business. Over the next 14 years, I stayed in the profession, as an auditor, because it was full of challenges and awesome learning opportunities – especially in areas that have nothing to do with numbers! The profession provided me with endless opportunities to grow my human-to-human skills. 

When I retired from the practice of accounting to start my second career as a leadership coach in 2014, I chose to serve the accounting profession that I had grown to know and love. Nearly every accountant I know has a brilliant mind and a big heart. They want to make a difference, but often feel unfulfilled and dissatisfied. I want to help more accountants find meaning, fulfillment and fun in the Dimension of Possible!

What book(s), blog(s), podcast(s) do you recommend?

All my top book recommendations are on our Top 10 Books for Accountants list on our I2L Blogcast. J

A couple of podcasts that I recommend for accountants:

  • Where Accountants Go – I think it’s fun to listen to other accountants’ stories, learn from them and be inspired by all the possibilities in this profession!
  • Finding Fearless Podcast – I recently discovered this new podcast by Madeline Pratt that inspires women entrepreneurs and accountants to be fearless! 

What changes do you foresee in the accounting profession of the near future (3-5 years)?

There will be a continued shift towards consulting, as technology automates compliance. Our value as accountants lies in our ability to be forward-thinking, play in the unknown and relate to one another on an authentic, human-to-human level.

Traditional business models will continue to be disrupted. It will become even easier for people to start and grow their own accounting firms, thanks to technology and the gig economy.

How do you see yourself participating in shaping the future of the accounting profession?

As an executive leadership coach, consultant and facilitator, I help accountants access the Dimension of Possible so they can be successful in this ever-changing profession. I help individuals uncover who they are and what they want to create in the world. I help them navigate a path forward, into the unknown, so they can find the courage to succeed in whatever way is most meaningful for them.

I help organizations create a true coaching culture through customized leadership development programming. I teach coaching skills to others, so they can unlock the hidden potential in those around them. I help them tap into the leadership power of love – 100% acceptance of who they are in this moment and a deep appreciation for who they are becoming – for themselves, their mission and those they serve.

Describe one person who has been an important mentor to you and how that person helped shape the direction or focus of your professional life.

My partner and co-founder of Intend2Lead, Brian Kush, plays a huge, positive role in my professional life. When we first met in 2015, I was a new entrepreneur and coach (and parent, too!), while Brian was more seasoned. Although I had big dreams back then, I didn’t yet have the confidence to make them happen.

Brian and I quickly discovered that we shared the same core values and dreams of innovating the accounting profession. It was such a relief to realize that I’m not the only “crazy” accountant who believes in the leadership powers of dreaming, love and vulnerability. Together, we created Intend2Lead to expand our positive impact in the profession.

Brian saw (and still sees) in me the positive things that I sometimes have a hard time seeing in myself (the voice of my inner critic can be very loud at times!). Brian’s belief in me in those early days of I2L gave me the courage and confidence to take some bold leaps and believe more fully in myself.

Please share a personal rule or principle that you follow.

Tap into the power of the heart to help you navigate challenging situations and relationships. The head is a powerful tool, but it can also get in the way. The mind’s job is to judge, filter and analyze – to make up stories about the world around you, so you can more easily navigate in it. This can be very helpful…except when it’s not! It’s easy to lose sight of yourself and the truth when you get lost in the stories that the mind weaves. When you quiet the mind and feel into your heart, you’ll uncover the truth.  


Learn more about the 2019 Most Powerful Women in Accounting.