Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Business Law and Leadership

Back in April, I posted on a leadership conference focusing on lawyers and legal education, sponsored by and held at UT Law.  I also posted earlier this summer on the second annual Women's Leadership in Legal Academia conference.  I admit that I have developed a passion for leadership literature and practices through my prior leadership training and experiences in law practice and in the legal academy.

Because lawyers often become leaders in and through their practice (both at work and their other communities) and because leadership principles interact with firm governance, I want to make a pitch that we all, but especially all of us teaching business associations (or a similar course), focus some attention on leadership in our teaching.  It is a nice adjunct to governance.  For example, management and control issues, especially director/officer processes in corporations, are a logical place to discuss leadership.  Who are the managers and the rank-and-file employees inspired by in managing and sustaining the firm?  Who is able to persuade the board to take action?  Is it because of that person's authority, or does that person hold a trust relationship with others that motivates them to follow?  And speaking of trust, it is an element of both leadership and fiduciary duty . . . .

As you consider my teaching suggestion, I offer you my latest blog post on our Leading as Lawyers blog.  It involves the importance of process to effective leadership.  The bottom line?

One can have a promising vision and strategy that emanate from the best of all intentions and ideas. But without engaging a process that includes effectual communication and input from, candid interchanges with, expressions of appreciation for, and buy-in from the relevant affected populations, those worthy intentions may be misinterpreted and those good ideas may die on the vine or not be implemented effectively.

We have all seen this happen in business governance.  Let's let our students in on the role that leadership plays in the practical application of business law.  It is bound to inform both their law practice and their lives.


Business Associations, Corporate Governance, Joan Heminway, Lawyering, Teaching | Permalink


I think this is a worthy endeavor, but we need to be careful about generalizations. I like your post because it uses "may," not "will." In some circumstances autocratic leadership is more effective than consensus-building, and most firms switch from time to time as circumstances evolve. The need for effective communication--if not necessarily consultation--is similar regardless of the style. Consensus-building without good communication is probably the worst of all leadership styles.

Posted by: Frank Snyder | Aug 28, 2019 9:19:45 AM

Thanks for these wise thoughts, Frank. Autocratic leadership is indeed necessary in certain situations--in particular, where consensus or a lack thereof has resulted in an organization's dysfunction or failure. I also agree with your emphasis on communication.

But we may disagree on the "worst of all leadership styles." I do not think there is a blanket "worst." I believe that judgment is highly contextual. A leader must fit an organization's needs. For me, therefore, the worst is when that fit does not exist . . . .

Posted by: joanheminway | Aug 29, 2019 11:22:31 PM

Okay, you’re obviously right. I was speaking from my own personal experience. Too much time in faculty meetings, maybe. :)

Posted by: Frank Snyder | Aug 31, 2019 8:23:42 AM

Lol, Frank! We all bring our priors to these issues. That insight, itself, is worth the dialogue.

Posted by: joanheminway | Sep 1, 2019 8:59:50 PM

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