Another post explains the modest influence leaders have on the performance of organizations and teams (See my post of Jan. 14, 2007 calling leadership into question). Even those general counsel who want to lead are anchored by the deadweight of many constraints.
The constraints on a general counsel include the CEO [I have had at least three CEO’s refuse to let the GC hire a consultant]; the characteristics of the company’s industry, the business model of the company (See my post of Dec. 17, 2006 on ADVO and its solo GC), the aptitude of the law department’s members, powerful client executives, other staff groups (See my post of Dec. 7, 2005 about interactions with Human Resources, Finance, Information Technology, and Facilities.), regulators, and sometimes overweening primary law firms (See my post of Dec. 6, 2006 on influential law firms.).
We like to think the top lawyer is in charge, and give that person credit or blame (See my post of May 14, 2006 on the Fundamental Attribution Error.) but the reality is more complicated. Constraints on freedom of management are everywhere.