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Out in front on leadership

The importance of leadership by general counsel and others in law departments is everywhere proclaimed (See my posts of Dec. 19, 2005: a key goal; Feb. 4, 2006: a key to best deployment of knowledge workers; May 10, 2006 and Jan. 18, 2008: high in professional development rankings.).

Definitions abound of the traits of a leader and how to assess leaders (See my posts of March 15, 2006: Boeing’s leadership competencies; May 11, 2007: five leadership traits; June 10, 2007: Human Capital Management Part III; Feb. 12, 2008: management by walking around; Sept. 25, 2005: 180˚ evaluation of leadership ability; Sept. 27, 2005: upward evaluations of leaders.). Various contributors account for differences in leadership attributes (See my posts of Dec. 5, 2005 and July 18, 2006: gender; Dec. 21, 2005: emotional intelligence; and May 30, 2006: neuroscience.).

Many law department managers strive to develop the leadership skills of their lawyers (See my posts of Feb. 4, 2006: peer-to-peer efforts; Aug. 26, 2006 #3: leadership training; Nov. 25, 2006: InBev leadership training; June 9, 2007: Acadia Life developing in-house leaders; Nov. 4, 2007: Texas General Counsel Forum and leadership training; and April 6, 2008: new-lawyer orientation at GE and leadership training.).

The benefits claimed for having effective leaders are many, including better morale, improvements in talent deployment, and higher productivity (See my posts of March 31, 2007: strategic thinking and developing lawyers; April 5, 2007: J&J’s client satisfaction; Nov. 11, 2007: decision making; and June 5, 2006: shareholder value.).

Unfortunately, the terms “leader” and “leadership” have been debased, as law departments spray them around promiscuously (See my posts of April 4, 2006: Accenture’s Leadership Council; Nov. 4, 2007: seven business unit “legal leaders” at Raytheon; June 4, 2007: illusive meanings, but people recognize leadership when they experience it. Our likelihood of pinning down the meaning of leadership is low (See my posts of April 12, 2006: hard to develop leaders from the risk averse; Oct. 6, 2006: leadership’s lost luster; Jan. 14, 2007 calling GCs’ leadership into question; Feb.10, 2007: constraints general counsel operate under; and May 2, 2007: strains after being promoted to a leadership role.).

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