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Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leaders Through Solitude

By Caleb Bortner, Baylor Law Student


Friends,

As part of our leadership development class at Baylor Law, one of the assignments over the quarter is to read a book about leadership. Our definition of what constitutes a leadership book is broad for this purpose, so our students choose a wide variety of books, ranging from “leadership lite” (as Deborah Rhode called it) to biographies of famous leaders. The task to complete the assignment is for the students to write a short review covering the book and why someone who is interested in leadership might want to read it. So, we hope you enjoy Caleb Bortner’s review of Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leaders Through Solitude by Raymond M. Kethledge and Michael S. Erwin.

– Stephen Rispoli


In a time when most of us are alone, due to Covid-19, how can we use this solitude to benefit ourselves and our society? I chose “Lead Yourself First” because the idea of isolation strikes me as something many of us are coping with right now. So how do we turn this “negative” into a positive force in our lives? How can we harness this unfortunate life event into something positive for us all?

Throughout history, leaders have used solitude as a sort of galvanizing tool to solve problems. Leaders have used solitude to bring focus without the constant background noise. Solitude brings out your natural intuition. It brings self-awareness or introspection in a way that would be impossible when surrounded by those you are leading. Time alone allows leaders to strengthen themselves using their faith or own inner strength and look at a problem from a different viewpoint. “Lead Yourself First” explored how many historical figures used solitude as a tool to create solutions.

Whether it was Ulysses S. Grant’s solitude in his tent after sickness, or Aung San Suu Kyi’s time imprisoned, or Martin Luther King Jr.’s imprisonment in Birmingham, leaders have found that time away from everyone allowed them to think. This opportunity to think, and to think deeply, allowed them to utilize the tools that made them great leaders in the first place. For Martin Luther King Jr., it galvanized his faith and resilience to keep fighting against systemic racism. Solitude gave Jane Goodall a chance to think deeply about chimpanzees and intuit a way to study them more closely. Solitude allowed Marie Curie the chance to intuit innovative experimentation techniques and conduct groundbreaking research.

In addition to the informative historical examples throughout “Lead Yourself First,” there were also stories of leaders in society today and examples of how solitude helped them. Frequently, Kethledge and Erwin focused on running as a mechanism for solitude. Not only does running create space between yourself and others, but it is also a way many people use to think through problems they are facing. Often, if stuck in a rut when you are writing or stuck with a problem, a piece of advice people will give you is to go for a walk. There is a reason for this; it allows you to place space between yourself and the problem and will enable you to think more deeply than you would if you were distracted by the electronics in your home.

Kethledge and Erwin end their book with straightforward advice about solitude and its benefits. They say that solitude works because it allows you to embrace hard thinking. It will not work if you use solitude to think on a superficial level or review old emails on the subject. Take solitude for the gift that it is. Close your office door, spread out all the documents on the matter, or allow yourself to look at your problem on a macro level and think about it from every angle you can. Kethledge and Erwin encouraged blocking off time to engage in hard thinking and solitude. They warned to use this time wisely to engage and embrace hard thinking and not just a superficial review of the issue at hand.

I would recommend this book to anyone struggling with the forced alone time we all have right now due to Covid-19. It helped me refocus my energy when I put into context all the forced solitude leaders from history have endured. They were all pillars of strength and used their time alone to create something extraordinary. I think we can all take notes from history and from “Lead Yourself First” to make our time in quarantine the most useful that we can.

– CALEB BORTNER

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Women in Leadership: The Movement Beyond the Glass Ceiling

By Jessie Cox, Baylor Law Student


Friends,

As part of our leadership development class at Baylor Law, one of the assignments over the quarter is to read a book about leadership. Our definition of what constitutes a leadership book is broad for this purpose, so our students choose a wide variety of books, ranging from “leadership lite” (as Deborah Rhode called it) to biographies of famous leaders. The task to complete the assignment is for the students to write a short review covering the book and why someone who is interested in leadership might want to read it. So, we hope you enjoy Jessica Cox’s review of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Even though Lean In has been covered extensively since it was published, we thought Jessie’s coverage of the book was a good read and thought you all might appreciate it.

– Stephen Rispoli


Sheryl Sandberg is a mother, a wife, a proponent for women’s rights, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, and the first woman ever to serve on Facebook’s Board of Directors. In her 2013 bestseller, Lean In, Sandberg discusses what she’s learned about the double standards women face in the corporate workplace, relying on both on her own experience as well as analytics and research to promote a future for women that leaves inequality behind.

The crux of Sandberg’s 5-point plan presented in Lean In is to encourage women to succeed in whatever career plan they choose. While she does strongly believe that women can do everything, she recognizes that a future without inequality doesn’t require that. Instead, the focus is on creating an environment where every woman can make a choice that is best for her without feeling guilty.

“Conditions for all women will improve when there are more women in leadership roles giving strong and powerful voices to their needs and concerns.”

Sandberg suggests that there are 5 methods women should implement on an individual level to address prejudice in the workplace:

1. SIT AT THE TABLE

Women will never be recognized as we should if we are too afraid to sit at the table. Sandberg referenced an experience in this chapter that really resonated with me. She was at a meeting when a male client walked in with two female associates. While the male, without hesitation, sat at the conference table, the two women automatically sat off to the side. As a young female in the workplace, I expect to not have a seat at the table, and that mindset is part of the problem.

Sandberg cited a statistic here that was jolting. When this book was written, only 7% of women negotiated for themselves in the workplace compared to almost 1/3rd of men. Even though most women currently in the corporate sphere did not grow up in a world where they had to fight for basic civil rights, Sandberg believes that women are still ingrained to think that they don’t deserve their successes. While men attribute success to their own hard work, women give away their successes to others – that someone helped them, or gave them a lucky break, instead of crediting their own hard work and expecting the same accolades given to men. Thanks to a century of hard work, there is now a chair waiting for women at that conference table, and we can’t be afraid to take it.

2. IT’S OK TO NOT BE LIKED BY ALL

A big part of moving past inequality is embracing change, and there will always be those that do not like change. As more women succeed in the workplace and take on leadership roles, it may mean taking a role that some believe was made for a man. However, Sandberg wants women to be confident enough in our own abilities and worth to be ok with jealousy and those that may be upset that we are succeeding.

“When you want to change things, you can’t please everyone.
If you do please everyone, you aren’t making enough progress.”

Moving into an era where women can truly do anything without feeling pressured by societal expectations involves other women being more accepting. Sandberg repeatedly emphasizes the importance of uplifting not only women that are leaders in the workplace, but also women that choose to be stay at home moms. There is no one size fits all formula.

3. EMPOWER OTHER WOMEN

Moving into an era where women can truly do anything without feeling pressured by societal expectations involves other women being more accepting. Sandberg repeatedly emphasizes the importance of uplifting not only women that are leaders in the workplace, but also women that choose to be stay at home moms. There is no one size fits all formula.

4. GET THE RIGHT PARTNER

This was the most surprising step of the plan to me because it is not an area that many people are comfortable discussing. Sandberg believes in inequality on all fronts – both at the workplace, and at home. Generally, however, even for women that work full-time corporate jobs, those women are still taking on 2x the amount of housework and 3x the amount of childcare and rearing than their male partners. Much of this is related to another ingrained mindset where we put more pressure on boys to succeed than we do girls. Sandberg suggests that truly embracing inequality for women means giving women the same time, choices, and opportunity that men have to succeed, and that starts at home.

5. SPEAK UP AGAINST PREJUDICE

Being a leader in a world where prejudice still exists means speaking out when you see something wrong. Staying silent and watching inequality happen is essentially accepting inequality for what it is, and that is not something that any woman should be okay with. The more we get people talking, the more we get people caring about making those important changes that lead to a future we deserve.

“What would I do if I weren’t afraid?
And then go do it.”

Standing up for yourself is scary. Standing up for yourself as a woman in a room full of men is even scarier. However, our ability to succeed as female leaders in the workplace is dependent on us believing in ourselves enough to be willing to confront that fear. As a young woman, I am full of self-doubt and anxiety about being able to be successful and being enough. And Sandberg really hit home for me in this regard – if I spent half the time and energy I spend on being afraid on believing in myself instead, there would be no limit to what I could achieve. If you can’t see how step the mountain is, then you can’t fear it.

I truly enjoyed reading Lean In, and highly recommend it for other women that want a refreshing and encouraging book on how to embrace your own ambition and worth to succeed as a woman and as a leader in life and in the workplace.

JESSIE COX

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Article Recommendation: Stories of Leadership, Good and Bad: Another Modest Proposal for Teaching Leadership in Law Schools

By Leah Teague


We recommend to you an article coming out in the Spring 2021 issue of the Journal of the Legal Profession. Professor Doris Brogan, the Harold Reuschlein Leadership Chair at Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law, addresses the question of why we should prepare law students for positions of influence and impact as leaders in society. The question was raised by her colleagues during a discussion about curricular objectives and goals. After immediately answering that we should, Prof. Brogan asked herself, “Why did it seem so right to prepare all our students with leadership skills if not all of them would end up in the that necessarily exclusive group we designate leader?” The article is the result of her research and reflection. She recognized that “good leadership education will make our students better lawyers, whether they become leaders or not.” She then addressed the myth that leadership cannot be taught. She proclaimed, “Of course, it can. Indeed it must be taught.”

The article is a delightful read with discussions of leaders who rose to positions of great influence, such as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson. She included stories about companies who lacked moral leadership at critical times, such as Volkswagen and Wells Fargo. I especially appreciated her introduction to Dr. Mary Gentile’s work on Giving Voice to Values (GVV) which she recommends be adapted to law school curricula to provide “an effective platform to structure values-based leadership education.” Using GVV can prepare students to “step up and speak out in the face of actions or decisions that challenge their values,” which is a form of “informal leadership, or leadership without specific authority.”

I also appreciate her tribute to Deborah Rhode’s body of work in the areas of professional responsibility, women’s leadership and finally our movement to encourage leadership development in legal education. See footnote 2 of the article.

In the article, Professor Brogan suggests several imperatives:

  1. Law schools must prepare students for formal and informal leadership;
  2. Leadership education must focus hard on values education, and engage students in difficult, concrete discussion exploring personal, institutional, and universal values;
  3. Leadership education must prepare students to speak up for their values and in service of doing the right thing courageously, and effectively, and to do so strategically, without unnecessarily putting their careers at risk); and
  4. Those in positions of power—those in a position to act— must be prepared to listen and to hear. Few students will find themselves in influential leadership positions straight out of law school; rather, they will evolve as leaders, developing a constellation of skills and approaches and honing leadership aptitudes in an ongoing process of learning “throughout a professional trajectory . . . .”

Professor Brogan opines that “law school offers a safe place to wrestle with these issues—a place where the risks are low and where the student can try out different responses with no concern about real-world consequences. In short, law school offers a venue to help students develop a strong values-based foundation, the incentive to act in defense of values, and skills required to do so.”

For a synopsis of Professor Brogan’s article, see the March 18, 2021 posting by Dean Paul Caron in TaxProf Blog.

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Article Callout: Lawyer Leadership Secrets to Success

In case you missed it: “Lawyer Leadership Secrets to Success” by Liam Montgomery. In the style of Jocko Willink and Leif Babin (authors of Extreme Ownership), Mr. Montgomery translates lessons learned in military service to leadership for lawyers. In this article he focuses upon giving and receiving feedback – a critical skill for any leader. The article is definitely worth the read if you’re looking for more feedback material to give to students: http://www.abajournal.com/voice/article/lawyer-leadership-secret-to-success