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Vol. 32, No. 3

How do leaders lead? They learn

by Michelle A. Behnke

In September, I attended the ABA Section Officers Conference. This annual event brings the section, division, and forum leaders—chairs, chairs-elect, secretaries, and treasurers—together for training and networking. The keynote speaker, Patricia H. Murrell, spoke about leadership issues, including the various modes of communication and how people effectively learn, experience, reflect, and think about issues and information. Murrell made four important points about leadership:

| Leadership is the ability to identify and develop one’s resources, whether human or material; | Leadership involves mobilizing those resources in resolving a problem, realizing a vision, or achieving a goal; | Leadership starts with who we are (either as an individual or as an organization) and then moves to what we do; and | Teaching and learning are the most powerful tools in a leader’s repertoire.

In short, she answered, for me, the age-old question of whether leaders are made or born. Assuming they are open to listening, I think good leaders (both volunteers and paid staff) can become even better leaders with good training and a desire to train or teach those around them. Sometimes leadership is as much about knowing those with whom you are working and leading as it is about your skills, style, and abilities. An important part of leadership is recognizing that it is not, as my daughter would say, “all about you.”

You will soon have the opportunity to participate in the ABA’s perennial powerhouse of training, the Bar Leadership Institute, which will be held March 13-15 in Chicago. BLI will bring national speakers and presenters together to assist you with leadership skills and show you how to identify and develop your resources. BLI focuses on fundamental leadership issues, such as communication and governance, and provides insight and concrete tools for leaders to take away. If you have not already registered, you should take a moment to do so. See the calendar of events on the back cover of this issue for more information.

Something new this year at BLI will be the inclusion of members of the ABA Board of Governors. There will be joint workshops and plenary sessions as well as separate workshops for Board of Governors members. Bringing these ABA leaders together with state and local bar leaders will present a unique opportunity for networking and for the exchanging of information between these two groups. As the largest national legal association, the ABA needs to hear from lawyers from all over the nation about the issues that affect them, their communities, and the profession. This new scheduling will give you a direct line to these ABA leaders.

When we talk about leadership, we often focus on the volunteer, elected leaders, but BLI is for the staff leaders, too. BLI provides a great opportunity for staff executives to learn about their volunteer counterparts and to begin to develop the rapport that is so critical to good teamwork. Staff executives will also have a chance to hear about issues facing associations and will be able to network with their counterparts. Strengthening the connections among counterparts from around the country is just another way that the executives can identify and develop their resources.

Leadership can sometimes be daunting, but the Standing Committee on Bar Activities and Services, together with the Division for Bar Services, works to bring leaders and resources together. It doesn’t matter whether that leader is a volunteer leader, the lead staff person of a large bar, or the only staff member of a small bar. The Standing Committee and the Division work hard to equip those who have undertaken leadership roles with the tools to make their leadership time effective, productive, and fulfilling. We also want to provide a communication conduit between the leaders of state, local, and special-focus bar associations and ABA leaders.

Come prepared to roll up your sleeves and work hard, but also be prepared to network and have fun with counterparts from other bars and ABA leaders.

See you in Chicago in March!