“Social distance” and how lonely at the top it is for general counsel

Here is how the Fin. Times, March 14, 2006 at 7 explains the concept of “social distance”: “The idea of ‘social distance’, introduced by George Stimmel, the German sociologist, helps leaders identify when they need to be more intimately involved with those around them, and when they need to withdraw and maintain distance.” A general counsel – or for that matter any manager – needs some special recognition and reserve.

Social distance becomes harder to maintain properly when a general counsel has been plucked from peers to head the legal department. Lunchroom camaraderie gives way to some reserve and definite power. “Bosses shouldn’t be friends,” or ogres. Social distance connotes a flexible separation between employees of different ranks.

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