September 13, 2019

The Nuts and Bolts of Effective Leadership

The Nuts and Bolts of Effective Leadership will be the first program of the ABA Business Law Section’s 2019-2021 Leadership Academy. The Leadership Academy will be a series of offerings over the course of two years, including eight programs and two webinars. Attendees of the Section meeting need not be participants in the Leadership Academy in order to attend the program. The Nuts and Bolt of Effective Leadership program will have three segments: (i) a presentation by Dean Camille Nelson of the American University Washington College of Law, (ii) a discussion by a panel of the following individuals: Lawrence A. Goldman, Director, Gibbons P.C.; E. Christopher Johnson, Jr., CEO and Co-Founder, Center for Justice, Rights & Dignity; William D. Johnston, Partner, Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP; Camille Nelson, Professor of Law and Dean of American University Washington College of Law; Kathleen S. McLeroy, Shareholder, Carlton Fields, LLP; Daniel V. Wright, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Analytic Services Inc.; and Ross M. Sarraf, Associate, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP and (iii) an audience question and answer period.

The program will provide a general overview and discussion of important leadership topics, particularly those that are relevant for lawyers at any career stage looking to enhance their opportunities in professional, charitable and civic organizations. The panel will explore whether leadership is innate, personality-based, or can be learned, the differences between leadership and management, the respective characteristics of good and bad leadership, influencing and changing behavior and specific leadership competencies and skills for lawyers as leaders. An objective of the panel discussion is to examine how leadership is addressed by various organizations and how formal / informal methods and practices to develop leadership can be improved or advanced. Each of these topics will be explored by the panel in a question and answer format that will encourage discussion of the various responses by the panelists.

Leadership and management skills are related but often obfuscated concepts. The panel will next provide its views as to the differences and similarities between them. Although the program is primarily focused on leadership, the panel will be asked to suggest necessary and important management skills for effective leadership. One related point of focus will be how to establish a professional, effective, efficient and ethical organization as a leader.

The panelists will offer their views as to how attendees can develop and provide good leadership. Critical competencies to good leadership will be discussed, along with considerations related to the development and formalization of leadership training in various contexts (e.g., law firms, businesses, non-profits, government, etc.). Other specific topics that the panel will consider: striking the balance between team building and individual development and succession planning, including the involvement and development of younger people within an organization or group. The panel will identify and discuss key mistakes to avoid in becoming a good leader as well as examples of bad leadership.

Among the most important and challenging competencies for effective leadership are influencing and changing one’s environment, including the people that one seeks to lead. To address these critical topics, the panel will address the threshold questions of whether change is necessary and how to identify when change is necessary. Additionally, the panelists will be asked to provide their thoughts on whether people can meaningfully change, and their preferred processes and strategies for leading change.

The panel discussion will last consider specific leadership topics for lawyers, including any critical leadership competencies and management skills that are particular to the law. Key areas for development and leadership competencies / management skills that are missing in younger lawyers will be considered by the panel as well. Various institutions in the law (e.g., law schools, law firms, bar associations) are critical to training lawyers and future lawyers by providing opportunities to develop “soft” abilities beyond doctrinal legal studies. The roles that these institutions play will be discussed in addition to how leadership development can be improved in the law generally.