Close this search box.
Upstream Academy logo

Emerging Leader Academy

Does your accounting firm have the high-performance, low-maintenance leaders you need to succeed?

Emerging Leader Academy ensures that your next generation of leaders receives the tools, training and development they need and want.

Emerging Leader Academy

A new group starts the two-year program in June 2024

Most firms recognize the need to prepare their future leaders. Some have tried—with only limited success—to develop their own programs. Others have looked beyond the profession, only to experience the frustration of trying to adapt outside programs.

Quality programs exist, both within and outside of public accounting.  But as we’ve talked with both managing partners and future leaders, they’ve shared with us their concerns about what’s currently available and what they’d like to see in a program to prepare future firm leaders.

Let us help you develop the low-maintenance, high-performing leaders you need. 


We believe an exceptional leadership development program must possess the following key characteristics:

  • A focus on helping participants develop into high-yield, low-maintenance leaders
  • Continuous learning delivered in digestible doses regularly throughout the year
  • Opportunities for individuals to apply what they learn by accomplishing challenging goals
  • Customizable learning experiences for individual and firm needs
  • Involvement by current firm leaders to enable participants to apply lessons learned
  • Pairing each participant with a guide, a trusted leader within the firm
  • Progress that is measurable for each participant
  • Opportunities for participants to network with other emerging leaders outside the firm
  • Affordability with minimal travel requirements

Key Elements

This program gives firms the tools they need to create highly customized leadership development maps for each of their future leaders.

Leadership training forums

During each year of the program, ten one-hour webinars provide a forum for discussing key leadership principles. Participants receive PowerPoint slides, discussion questions and other materials in advance of each session. Participants also have access to the recorded session online afterward.

Leadership project

Each year, participants complete a challenging leadership project that satisfies one or more goal requirements and allows individuals or teams of emerging leaders to further develop skills. Upstream provides advice, suggestions and examples, and guides work with participants to ensure accountability and completion of desired objectives.


The process of learning new principles and skills is almost always easier if accompanied by someone who has previously walked the same path.  Firm leadership assigns participants to experienced guides. These respected stakeholders from within the firm work with participants through the program to set and accomplish their goals and their project. Upstream provides training and materials to individuals who are selected to serve as guides.

A limited number of Upstream guide spots are available for an additional charge  if you need an experienced Upstream facilitator to help develop your participant’s career.  Contact us for details.

Leadership development goals

We believe leadership skills are best learned by “doing.” Throughout the year, participants (with the assistance of their guides) will set and accomplish related goals after each Leadership Training Forum. Upstream provides a list of potential goals after each forum. Participants complete all the goals chosen prior to the program year conclusion in May.  With guide-ensured accountability, accomplishing challenging goals allows participants to apply what they’ve learned and give value back to the firm.


Measured progress

It’s difficult to know if you’re on course unless there’s some way to measure progress.  Upstream Academy will provide tools (including an online “members only” page) for the participants and their in-house guides that will allow them to track progress on goals and projects throughout the year, network with other program participants and stay connected. 


To allow participants to network and collaborate with peers and share insights in a stimulating group environment, we hold two virtual conferences each year. 

Participants who wish to travel also have the opportunity to attend a live event each January. 

Unconditional Guarantee

Like everything we do at Upstream Academy, the Emerging Leader Academy is unconditionally guaranteed to your full satisfaction. If you’re not completely satisfied, we will either waive your fee or accept that portion of the fee that reflects your level of satisfaction.

Additional Information

Who Should Attend?

The ideal candidate for the program is a manager, senior manager or new partner who is seen as a future firm leader.  Candidates should be eager to learn and cognizant of the honor the firm has given them by picking them for this program.

What is the cost?

Participants can join the program for $3,900 per year ( Member Firms pay $3,300).  If you are interested in UAN membership, please note that UAN membership includes a set number of free registrants based on your UAN Tier.

Unconditional Guarantee

We’re confident that Emerging Leaders Academy will be of immeasurable value to you. Like everything we do at Upstream Academy, this program is unconditionally guaranteed to your full satisfaction. If you’re not completely satisfied, we will, at your option, either waive your fee or accept that portion of the fee that reflects your level of satisfaction.


What is the timing for this program?

The deadline for registration is May 15. The program begins in June of each year and runs for two years. The first event for participants is the June Leadership Training Forum, Setting and Accomplishing Worthwhile Goals, which also includes an overview of the program. The first event for guides is the Introductory Guide Webinar.

Are there any program discounts and/or additional costs?

Upstream Academy Network members receive a discounted price for each participant.  UAN membership starts at $7,500 per year and includes a number of free ELA participants based on your UAN Tier.  To learn more about Upstream Academy Network membership, go to the UAN member page or contact us

The program enrollment fee includes all materials and webinars.  Participants are encouraged to purchase (or borrow) several books a year and if participants choose to attend a conference, they will also have travel and lodging costs along with a $650 fee for the in-person event.

What guidance do you have for selecting participants?

We recommend that participants be your next generation of leaders.  Typically participants are 3-5 years from partner or other firm leadership position. We have created a Sample Participant Nomination document that you can use internally to nominate participants for enrollment or ask for applicants to apply. We’ve also created a Sample Participant Invitation the firm can use to inform candidates of their acceptance into the program.

What is the typical makeup of the participant group?

The group begins the program with two-thirds of the participants at manager or senior manager level and a little less than a third at partner level.  We have about 10% outside these roles. By the end of the program, many of the participants have been promoted and partners make up a little over half of the group. 

We have about 60% men and 40% women.

Will non-CPA participants still get value from the program?

The Emerging Leaders Academy program is designed to teach leadership skills to accounting firm leaders, regardless of their particular career path.

What is the time commitment and CPE available?

We ask participants to commit to approximately 45-90 hours a year, consisting of the following:

  • Ten one-hour Leadership Training Forums with optional ½ hour post call discussion (10-15 hours)
  • Once a month check-ins with their guides (6-12 hours)
  • Two virtual conferences (6 hours)
  • Completion of goals each year (10-20 hours)
  • Completion of a project each year (10-20 hours)
  • One optional Upstream event (13-16 hours plus travel time)

If participants attend all sessions (live or on-demand) they will receive 16-29 hours of CPE.

What if an ELA participant is unable to finish the program?

Participants will be refunded their registration fee in full if Upstream Academy is notified of their withdrawal in writing by June 30.  After this date, participants will be eligible for a prorated refund of their registration fee.

Guides and Advocates
What is the time commitment for a guide each year?

Guides are asked to commit to approximately 10-15 hours a year, consisting of the following:

  • Four one-hour Guide Training Webinars (4 hours)
  • Once a month check-ins with the participant (6-12 hours)

Guides may spend an additional 13-31 hours with optional activities

  • An Upstream Academy conference at the guide rate of $650  (13-16 hours plus travel time)
  • Ten one-hour Leadership Training Forums with optional ½ hour firm discussion (10-15 hours)
What are the requirements to be a guide?

Ideally a guide is someone who knows how the firm works and how the participant fits into that plan, so they can help the participant take the insights from the program and apply to them to help the firm and the participant’s career.  To assist firms in assigning guides, we have developed an ELA Guides document, which lists guides’ responsibilities and characteristics.

Is each participant required to have a guide?

Yes, each participant should choose or be assigned a guide from within the firm.

How many participants can one person guide?

The guide position requires a minimum time commitment of 10-15 hours per participant.  We believe that most firm leaders can only effective guide 1-3 participants.

Can guides attend the conferences?

Guides are welcome to attend the HeadWaters Conference for the reduced rate of $650.  The Emerging Leaders Conference is only open to ELA participants. 

What are the requirements to be an advocate?

Firms use the advocate designation in a variety of ways.  Some firms like to list the Managing Partner or partner in charge of people development as the advocate to ensure they are kept up-to-date on emerging leaders.  The majority of firms use this designation for someone within the firm who will assist the participants in getting the most from the program (human resources or training directors).  To assist firms in assigning an advocate, we have developed an ELA Advocates document, which describes recommended Advocate duties and characteristics.

Is each participant required to have an advocate?

The advocate position is optional, but we strongly encourage the firm to assign an advocate if they have more than two participants. This helps coordinate the program and give participants another “go to” person.

Meet Your Instructor

Director At
Upstream Academy

Upstream Academy will recommend CPE credit based on the level of participation in this course. Prerequisite: None Advanced Preparation: None. Skill level: Overview
Upstream Academy is registered with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) as a sponsor of continuing professional education on the National Registry of CPE Sponsors. State boards of accountancy have final authority on the acceptance of individual courses for CPE credit. Complaints regarding registered sponsors may be submitted to the National Registry of CPE Sponsors through its website: