August 20, 2015

Inside Business Law

This month’s Inside Business Law highlights the work of the Section’s Leadership Development Committee, which is charged with helping Committee Chairs and other Committee leaders be effective leaders of their Committees and the Section, and with helping Committees identify, recruit, and train future leaders. At the Section’s Annual Meeting in Chicago (September 17–19, 2015), the Leadership Development Committee is sponsoring a boot camp for Subcommittee Chairs and will host an informal discussion with current Section leaders.

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The Business Law Section strives to be the premier network of business lawyers in the United States, if not internationally. But as a network of volunteers that is hungry for volunteer leaders, we rely upon ourselves, with the valuable assistance of a highly competent Section staff, to train current leaders, foster the growth of future leaders, and encourage new members to join the Section and find paths toward meaningful involvement in the Section’s activities. 

Indeed, the Section’s informal guidelines on the attributes of a good leader, “Aspects of Leadership,” penned by a former Section Chair several years before he became Section Chair, are appended to the Section’s Leadership Directory and are among the resource materials provided to incoming Committee Chairs. The italicized language below are selected excerpts from the guidelines. 

Leadership is Strategic. The leader keeps the organization true to its strategy. The leader’s obligations are to help the organization formulate its strategy, to articulate that strategy throughout the organization, to make sure that strategy is visibly linked to actions, and to lead periodic reevaluations of that strategy in response to changes in the environment.

The Leadership Development Committee is the Section’s administrative committee charged with the mission of retaining and leveraging the talents of long-time leaders, sustaining the Section by identifying prospective leaders, and educating new leaders on how to climb the ladder of participation both in the Section and the American Bar Association generally. Equally important to the growth of Section membership and the expansion of membership participation in Section activities is the corollary development of an expanded pool of Section leaders. 

Leadership is Caring. The leader cares deeply about the organization, its mission, its future, and its members. The hallmark of the leader is the same as that of a professional; service to others before self. The leader’s goal is to help each person in the organization, whether member, staff, or leadership, achieve that person’s full potential in the organization.

How do we accomplish this mission and how does it help Section members? Current leaders share information on how to become a leader, what it means to be a leader, how to succeed as a leader, and how to grow your career by being a leader in the Business Law Section. 

More specifically, what do we do?

  • We have sponsored a recurring Program at Section Spring and Annual Meetings: “How to Become a Section Leader.” Past and current Section Officers, Council members, and substantive Committee Chairs speak about how they got involved in the Section, their paths to Section leadership roles, and what those roles have meant to their development as business lawyers.
  • We have developed a new initiative, to be offered for the second time at the Section Annual BLS Meeting in September: “Boot Camp for Subcommittee and Task Force Chairs – Climbing the Ropes in the Section and the Big ABA.” We address the following: You’ve been asked to take on the chairmanship of subcommittee. What are you supposed to do? How does your task fit within your Committee and the Section? What resources does the Section offer you to assist with your task? How can you leverage your position toward enhanced future opportunities within a Committee, the Section, or the American Bar Association?
  • We are responsible for developing a plan under which the responsibilities and achievements of Section leaders will be communicated to their law firm and other employers. 

Leadership is Developmental. The leader is a builder. The leader seeks to leave the organization and its members better off than they were when the leader assumed that position. The leader also provides for leadership succession. The leader’s first task, upon assuming the position, is to identify, mentor, and train potential successors.

Each January, the Section Officers, Council, and Committee Chairs meet to share their respective ideas and visions, and learn how to enhance the contributions of substantive Committees to the Section, the profession of business law, and the mission of the ABA in the legal community; grow the membership of substantive Committees; attract and harness the enthusiasm of new, young, and diverse members; and sustain the Business Law Section for the next generation of business lawyers. As part of these annual leadership meetings, the Leadership Development Committee works with the Section Officers in structuring and implementing a leadership forum focusing not only on enhancing the benefits of participation in the Business Law Section, but leadership skills generally, which may have application in participants’ employment and the charitable and civic activities in which they engage. In addition, every five years, the Section looks forward through an in-depth “Advance” and reassesses and refines Section missions, objectives, and the means for attaining same. 

Leadership is Joyful. The leader enjoys the role, finding it energizing and fulfilling. Because the leader genuinely respects and cares for the organization and its members, he or she views leadership as a privilege and honor, not as a burden or as a means to another end.

Undoubtedly, there is a social element to taking on leadership responsibilities within the Section. It offers a means to develop long-term professional, as well as personal relationships; serves the profession of business lawyers by enhancing the value proposition associated with being engaged in a trade association network; and provides an opportunity for professional fulfillment apart from the “day job” of representing clients.