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Lawyers as Leaders

Submitted by Tiffany Roberts on Wed, 08-19-2015
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Rhode, Deborah
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Oxford University Press
It’s ironic that an occupation which produces so many US leaders pays little attention to developing leadership skills. Lawyers sit at the helm of powerful law firms, businesses, and governmental organizations. The legal profession has supplied a majority of American presidents and, in recent decades, almost half of the members of Congress. And yet, even though societies trust lawyers with so much power they are often disappointed with the results.
This issue raises two important questions: Why do we look to lawyers to lead, and why do so many of them prove to be so ill?prepared for that role?
In LAWYERS AS LEADERS, the first serious work on leadership and law, eminent law professor Deborah Rhode answers these questions and provides an overview for attorneys who occupy or aspire to leadership positions in public and private practice settings. The most successful leaders, Rhode argues, are those who can see past their own ambitions and retain a capacity for critical reflection on their performance.
Drawing on a broad range of interdisciplinary research, biographical profiles, and empirical studies, LAWYERS AS LEADERS covers everything from decision making, conflict management, and communication, to ethics and diversity in leadership. Rhode contends that the legal profession attracts many people with the ambition and analytic capabilities to be leaders but often fails to develop other qualities essential to effectiveness. Successful lawyers need to be confident, competitive, and even combative, but possessing such qualities often results in a lack of “soft skills” such as interpersonal sensitivity and emotional intelligence that are necessary to advance both a lawyer’s career and the public’s welfare.
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