By Leah Teague
On April 1, I had the pleasure of participating in a webinar hosted by Live with Kellye and Ken. The web series posts monthly hour-long discussions between invited panel guests over a wide array of topics affecting legal education and the legal community. This month’s episode was titled Law and Leadership. I was honored to be included on a panel with Professor Deborah Rhode from Stanford, Dean Garry Jenkins from Minnesota, Dean D. Gordon Smith from Brigham Young, and Dean Matthew Diller from Fordham.
A video of the webinar is available, here:
During the discussion, each panelist briefly talked about the leadership programs at their respective schools, as well as the value of implementing leadership training in law schools. The panelists agreed leadership development programming gives our student the opportunity to practice assessing different and difficult situations and determine their role and that of others as they seek the best approach to a positive outcome. Everything that we are all doing in these Leadership Development Programs assists students to more effectively represent their clients, add value to their future organizations and live more fulfilling lives. As Dean Jenkins expressed, at its core, “leadership is really about developing a set of skills over a period of time as opposed to the idea that once I do these five things, I’m a leader.”
Dean Jenkins added, “I reject thinking of leadership as an on/off switch. I think there’s a misnomer that either you’re a leader or you’re not, either you have it or you don’t.” He suggested the best analogy is that of learning music. “We could all study the cello. We could all get better. Some will improve faster than others.” His point is that “a combination of natural ability and inclination and effort… all play roles. We might not all end in the same place but we’d all improve.” Professor Rhode confirmed that “studies show that most leadership skills are learned skills.”
Dean Smith noted that we need to help our students become good team players with an entrepreneurial mindset and an understanding that every person has value and is worthy of respect. Dean Dillard echoed this sentiment by explaining that his leadership class is “focused on framing (leadership development) not so much as law and leadership, but law and being a good organizational and institutional citizen… and the professional is not the center of everything. The professional is a servant and works in the service of others.”
At the end of the day, Dean Smith said it best, “we all want something really similar from our institutions and from legal education… we want to make the world a better place…we want to make it better for all people and leadership is the mechanism to get that sort of result.” Everything that we are all doing in these Leadership Development Programs is going to help our students add value to their future organizations, to their clients, and their communities. Implementing Leadership development programs is a win-win situation for all our schools!