General counsel would do well to ponder two contrarian points made recently about leadership. A commentary on the latest book by Jim Collins, Great by Choice, in the Economist, Nov. 26, 2011 at 80, refers to two common beliefs that he challenges. Collins does not believe that “turbulent times call for bold and risk-loving leaders.” To the contrary, most of the business leaders Collins profiles are risk-averse to the point of paranoia.
Nor does Collins agree that doing something novel and innovative is the only virtue that counts. Efficiency, continuous improvement, gradual adoption of ideas tested by other law departments will serve over time better than an adventurous pioneering step. Thoughtfully stay within the envelope; improve within the box.
Perhaps these findings resonate with me because in my consulting I rarely find support for dramatic, breakthrough paths forward. Neither the anti-bold nor the anti-new views fit with those who urge transformations, but then my tent is not pitched in their camp.