We admire law departments that describe the attributes of leadership. After all, doing so helps institutionalize the behaviors and values expected of leaders and introduces common terminology. Problems exist, however, with leadership competency programs, as outlined in the Harv. Bus. Rev., Vol. 86, Dec. 2008 at 31.
The authors lay out four misgivings that general counsel should take to heart. Training programs built on leadership competency models teach participants how to manage within the existing organization, less to imagine a different and better organization. Training tends to emphasize formal structures at the expense of informal ones. Third, leadership competency models “condition managers to minimize uncertainty and mitigate risk.” A fourth worry is that the employees picked for leadership potential “narrows to those who most closely resemble their peers and bosses,” which squeezes out non-conforming views and styles.
Leadership in law departments is too important to compress, shape and circumscribe (See my post of June 11, 2008: leadership with 32 references.).