We believe that a new leadership capacity is necessary if we lawyers want to shape our own destiny.
We understand now from the art and science of leadership that different contexts demand different approaches to how we intervene. Lawyers typically excel in contexts where the relationship between cause and effect can be understood through legal expertise, and the right answers can be determined based on facts. However, neither our lives today nor the issues we face as practitioners are all so easily ordered and understood.
We are living in the midst of complexity. Every day we face situations that are unpredictable and with multiple variables, all in flux at the same time. The right answers cannot be perceived easily and more than one viable path forward exists. We increasingly find ourselves tasked to make quick decisions based on incomplete information where we must rely less on past patterns and more on our capacity to pay attention and attune to the emerging future as it happens, moment by moment.
Leading through complexity calls upon a totally different mindset than what most lawyers are trained for.
The capacity to engage complexity with skill and timely action requires that we must collaborate together, something that often eludes us from the earliest days of law school when we are conditioned to compete with each other for the highest grades on the curve, the most prestigious clerkships, or the most coveted journals. Many lawyers will agree that a competitive mindset pervades legal practice, along with a generally high level of distrust toward other lawyers.
If we lawyers are to increase our insight, resilience and creativity to innovate and lead change - whether in our own lives, on behalf of our clients, or for the benefit of the legal system and society as a whole — we must modernize our approach to leadership with a special focus upon law students and early career lawyers.