The Leadership Library: Bar leaders point you toward words of wisdom

Volume 29 Number 4

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Chances are, you hear of a new book on management or leadership every day. But how do you sort out which ones are worth your time, and not just passing fads? Here, four bar leaders help you with that task, with reviews of books that may not be the latest, but are among the greatest books they’ve been reading on leadership.

Read any good books lately? If you’ve come across a book that you think would be of interest to staff and elected bar leaders, just let us know. Call me at (312) 988-6071 or e-mail me at cavicchm@staff.abanet.org and I’ll fill you in on how to review a book for Bar Leader.

—Marilyn Cavicchia, editor

 

Leadership Is an Art and Leadership Jazz
Max DePree; Dell, reissue edition and reprint edition, 1990 and 1993.
176 pages and 240 pages

For students of effective leadership, it is fortunate that Max DePree is a keen observer of human and organizational behavior. For those who want to become more effective leaders, it is even better that he has shared his insights in two brief, yet powerful, works entitled Leadership Is an Art and Leadership Jazz.

Formerly the chief executive officer of Herman Miller Co. (a leading office furniture company known for its innovative and creative solutions), DePree uses these two books as vehicles to set down his thoughts and observations about effective leadership. Using cogent anecdotes and succinct lists borne of his observations, DePree offers those who would lead a thoughtful look at the responsibilities and opportunities of leadership.

He believes the first responsibility of a leader is to define reality and the last responsibility of effective leadership is to say, “Thank you.” What happens in between, according to DePree, requires a leader to become both a servant and a debtor.

He defines the art of leadership as “liberating people to do what is required of them in the most effective and humane way possible.” He describes organizations as interdependent relationships based on a covenant in which the leader finds her voice and makes promises (one of which is to hold herself and others accountable for results) while attempting to reach each individual’s highest potential.

With amazing simplicity, DePree confronts difficult but necessary discussions for any organization. On issues such as change, the leader as a follower, diversity, and delegation, he offers insights that are very likely true for any organization of any size with any mission and with any management style. He makes the case that the fuel of any effective organization is communication and that communication should be lavished both within the organization and on the organization’s many constituents. DePree attacks the killer of many visions—a disease he calls “endless negotiating.”

Lawyers, who are leaders in their firms, communities, and bar associations, would do well to take a thoughtful stroll through these two books. Though originally published in the early 1990s, DePree’s observations remain astute and timely.

DePree candidly observes that his analysis is incomplete and that readers must complete it within their own organizations, with their individual skills, as they attempt to achieve their specific visions. Thus, he invites the reader to become a co-author. I have now read each of these books three times. I am still editing my personal version of the completion of these astonishingly clear books. Leaders who become readers will join a long list of DePree’s avid fans, as well as becoming his co-authors.

 

Reviewed by David S. Houghton, past president, Omaha Bar Association; past president, Nebraska State Bar Association; past president, National Conference of Bar Presidents; ABA State Delegate from Nebraska; and member, ABA Standing Committee on Bar Activities and Services.

 

Only the Paranoid Survive:
How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company
Andrew S. Grove; Currency, 1996. 224 pages

Andy Grove was the chair of the board at Intel. At the time he wrote this book, he was president and CEO at what was (and remains) one of the most successful companies in history. Intel has been around since 1968 and has ridden the waves of a turbulent and unpredictable technology market.

Grove coined the terminology “strategic inflection points” (SIPs) to signify things about which he is incredibly paranoid—and it is much more than just competitors, new products, or normal evolution and change.

Grove defines an SIP as a time in the life of a business, an industry, an institution, or an individual when the fundamentals are about to change and all the premises upon which success had previously been based are no longer true or become unrecognizably different. It is at that point when the affected entity transforms itself to thrive with the changes or, failing that, begins its demise.

As Grove says in the preface to the book, “Strategic inflection points can be caused by technological change but they are more than technological change. They can be caused by competitors but they are more than just competition. They are full-scale changes in the way business is conducted, so that simply adopting new technology or fighting the competition as you used to may be insufficient. They build up force so insidiously that you may have a hard time even putting a finger on what has changed, yet you know that something has.”

Grove describes one such SIP that Intel went through, which nearly put the company out of business. The original Pentium processor had a decimal-point flaw of which Intel was aware but considered insignificant, as it would occur only once in about every 27,000 years for the average user; the company initially declined to admit the existence of the engineering defect. But customers found out, and eventually, Intel had to recall and replace all the processors. The lesson to be learned was that now the consumer, not the provider, decided what was acceptable and what was not.

What causes an SIP? Grove uses the “six forces” analysis, based largely on the work of Harvard’s Michael E. Porter’s five-forces model, to which Grove added a sixth. Grove suggests an SIP is caused by a 10X Factor—a radical change in one or more of the following six forces:

| Competition (for example, Wal-Mart and the mom-and-pop stores). | Technology (the printing press, internal combustion machine, and the Internet). | Customers (as in “the Pentium Debacle”). | Suppliers (e.g., taking out the middle man). | Regulation (for example, the federal breakup of AT&T, and Sarbanes-Oxley). | Complementors (those who provide complementary products or services to yours, for example, changes with the Internet and share brokering, or Intel and Microsoft).

So how do you survive something that you might not see coming? Grove suggests three steps in the transition from the pre-SIP environment to what he calls “the other side of the valley of death”:

1) Endure the period of confusion that is inevitable while you try to figure out what is going on.

2) Experiment and allow some chaos to find the new ways of doing business.

3) Rein in the chaos and pass through a period of single-minded determination and pursuit of a new direction toward an initially nebulous goal—create order out of chaos.

To do all this, Grove says, requires listening to everyone from the “prophets” in the business to the lunatic fringe. It requires deliberately fostering intense debates between stakeholders and interest groups. Leadership must clearly and constantly articulate the new direction. And, as you’d expect from such a period of turbulence and change, it requires that organizations and people adapt lest they become irrelevant.

In these changing times for the legal profession, a healthy dose of paranoia may be just what the doctor ordered. As our competition and clients change and as technological innovation accelerates, and with the threat of increased incursion of regulators into the independent bar, bar leadership must foster the debate and provide a clear vision of the future and how to get there with our core principles in place. This is an indispensable read for bar leaders.

 

Reviewed by Joe Crosthwait, past president of the Oklahoma Bar Association; past member of the National Conference of Bar Presidents’ Executive Council; past member of the ABA Commission of Research on the Future of the Profession; and current chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Solo and Small Firm Practitioners.

 

The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism
Shoshana Zuboff and James Maxmin; Viking Penguin Group, 2002. 384 pages

Shoshana Zuboff, professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School, earned the name “the prophet of the information age” after writing In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power (1989, 496 pages). Professor Zuboff recently teamed up with business leader James Maxmin to write another hallmark book, The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism. I believe this book will prove to be a valuable resource for bar association leaders who are looking for ways to set themselves apart in this rapidly changing marketplace.

The authors draw from history, social psychology, and economics to show how “people have changed more than the organizations upon which their well-being depends.” They go on to develop bold insights into the future of our economy and society as they convincingly demonstrate how we are facing an entirely new era of economic growth. Today, individuals yearn to take their lives into their own hands, but that doesn’t mean they want to take all the work into their own hands. These new individuals are looking to find self-expression, participation, and influence in professional organizations that provide “deep support” that will provide members with an ongoing relationship based on advocacy, mutual respect, trust, and acute alignment of interests.

The authors demonstrate how the mass production of goods and services—even many of the traditional bar association services—has outlived the interests of consumers they were designed to serve. In this world of unprecedented abundance and increasingly greater complexity, individuals are now looking for enterprises to work for them. Certain to stir debate, this book will help readers understand what young people are looking for from professional associations.

 

Reviewed by Stephen P. Gallagher, founder of LeadershipCoach.us, an executive coaching firm focused primarily on attorneys and practice group leaders.

 

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In
Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton; second edition, Penguin Books, 1991. 224 pages

Okay, I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to these “self help” books. I know this Getting to Yes is more along the line of business self-help than the personal ones like He’s Just Not That Into You. But the tide of the business self-helpers, including the astonishingly popular Who Moved My Cheese?, seems inexorable and, well, pretty flabby. I mean, couldn’t the Cheese number be simply, Adapt or Die? Didn’t Darwin figure that out a long time ago? Anyway, I plunged into this one with my semiopen mind, trying to keep the cynical antenna stowed, and came away pretty impressed.

I like disclosure, especially up front, and we get that with these authors. They recognize, first, that most of life’s activities involve negotiation. Second, they don’t guarantee that one will discover, through this book, some magic tricks that will blow away the opposition. Rather, their realistic approach is refreshingly candid. What they are presenting here is a framework for what they call “Principled Negotiation.” I’ve got my own name for it: “Prepared Negotiation.”

Most traditional negotiation involves a “positional” strategy. For example, “I won’t give you more than $25,900 for that car.” The response is, “We can’t take anything less than $28,900.” Eventually, after the dance, the parties all compromise at some midpoint, or walk away. The authors call this a “standard minuet.” A principled negotiation involves a bit more complex review of not only the substance of the negotiation, but more importantly, the procedure of how the process will evolve. The examination of the procedure—the analysis of the issue, the planning of creative ideas to solve the problem, and how the discussion or communication should take place—is the key to getting away from the standard minuet.

One good example used in the book is probably one we have all used with varying degrees of success in our offices. How many times have we sat around with fellow staff members trying to come up with “creative” solutions to an issue? We explain the ground rules: No idea is to be dissed—let’s get them all down on paper. Do we always follow our own rules? Usually, someone proposes something pretty far afield and the ack-ack guns shoot it down. And the brainstorming goes right along with it. However, if one sticks to the rules, interesting, viable approaches are eventually teased out of the group. It is no different with a negotiation session that is truly open to innovative ways to reach an agreement.

There are traps inherent in brainstorming: making some premature judgment about a proposed solution, thinking you need to come up with a “single” right solution, assuming there is a fixed-sized pie on the table, and thinking that having to solve the other person’s problem is his or her problem. It’s not—it’s yours.

Another valuable discussion in the book also relates to preparation before a negotiation session. Much like looking for creative options, it is helpful to go through a self-analysis of BATNA—or, What is my best alternative to a negotiated agreement? Knowing what your options are if the negotiation fails empowers your position. They may not be wonderful choices, but they give you a comfort level that engenders confidence.

I really liked the section on the games that are played in typical negotiating scenarios, and how to counter them. My favorite one on how to deal with the physical gamesmanship sometimes played by one side is to ask, “Shall we alternate spilling coffee on one another day by day?”

An especially helpful section at the end of the book contains a series of commonly asked questions, and answers, about any negotiating process. They are not cure-alls, but they do focus on just the type of questions a skeptic like me would ask about the whole game. I need to keep this book handy, and remember the authors’ words: “No one can make you skillful but yourself.” At least it is better than cheese.

 

Reviewed by Chuck Turner, executive director of the Colorado Bar Association and the Denver Bar Association.

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