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Two things I learned about team building from First Minnesota

How Union soldiers can teach in-house litigators some important lessons on team building

In her new book, “Lawyers as Leaders,” Professor Deborah Rhode argues that the legal profession must do a better job of training lawyers to be leaders. This is a proposition that’s difficult to argue with. However one feels about lawyers, there are few who would contend that the profession is peopled with stellar leaders. Unlike business schools, where leadership has long been part of the curriculum, law schools have historically focused on teaching technical skills. Leadership roles were presumed to flow to the most technically skillful. Today, however, we have a profession whose leaders are not necessarily either proficient lawyers or skilled leaders.

I certainly do not consider myself a “great leader,” far from it, but for 10 years now it has been my honor and privilege to lead two great corporate litigation teams. I have worked very hard to be the best leader I could be to both of them. I know that sometimes I have fallen short. I’d like to think that sometimes I have done alright.

1. You have to care—I mean actually care—about your team.

I am not talking about caring in a bureaucratic, HR kind of way; I am talking about caring deeply and personally about each and every one of the individuals you presume to lead. After all, every one of them is entrusting an important part of their lives to you. Their jobs matter to them and make a difference in the quality of their lives and those of their partners and children. Their hopes and dreams are in a very real way tied up in yours. You are all in this together. And if you care for them, they will learn to care for and trust in each other.

PD Villarreal

PD Villarreal is senior vice preisdent of global litigation at GlaxoSmithKline.

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