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Developing leaders in the legal department, part 1

Office Depot’s Leadership Development program provides challenges, feedback for up and coming lawyers

There is not doubt that more and more general counsel are being recognized as business leaders. They are finding a seat at the table and entwining their expertise in the day-to-day business decisions that shape corporate governance. Many companies, from Office Depot to McDonald’s acknowledge this increased importance by implementing talent and leadership development programs for their in-house teams. 

At Office Depot, for example, the company’s leadership development efforts extend to all departments, including legal. According to Elisa Garcia, executive vice president and chief legal officer, the most important program for her legal team is the Advanced Leadership Development Program (ALDP).

“Before lawyers are selected to go through this training, they must be designated as high potential and either leading a team or capable of leading a team and nominated by a supervisor,” Garcia explains. “These decisions are made by me and/or the lawyer supervising the designee. There are a number of factors that go into this selection, including performance, client service and understanding of the business.” 

According to Garcia, the ALDP has two cornerstones that work toward developing both leadership and business skills. These cornerstones are the focus of two three-day sessions attended by Office Depot team members, 

First, she says, participants work in cross-functional project teams to tackle specific business challenges, developing recommendations that are presented to members of a senior leadership team. The participants also take part in a customized 360-degree feedback assessment program. The feedback comes from managers, peers and direct reports, who weigh in on their leadership competencies. Each participant also meets with an executive coach to review the results and determine how to strengthen their leadership skills. 

Garcia notes several of the program topics that allow participants to engage in experiential activities in order to better understand different challenges and leadership techniques. Among the activities offered are:

  • Strategic thinking activities, like analyzing a supply chain scenario
  • Building financial acumen by using Office Depot statements and reports to understand financial management
  • Learning coaching and talent development skills
  • Exploring process development techniques

“Participation in the program exposes our lawyers to the business in a way they have not experienced,” Garcia explains. “They are not ‘advising’ but solving problems. The cross-functional and cross-country relationships are key to becoming leaders at Office Depot.” 

The Office Depot program represents one method companies can use to develop talent and leadership. Next week we’ll analyze McDonald’s leadership program by speaking with Gloria Santona, executive vice president, general counsel and secretary of that company.


For more on talent development, check out the following:


Building from without and within

Corporate leaders say general counsel widely considered part of a company’s executive team

8 noteworthy in-house career moves




Senior Editor and Community Manager

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Rich Steeves

Richard P. Steeves is Senior Editor and Community Manager of InsideCounsel magazine, where he covers the intellectual property and compliance beats. Rich earned a B.A....

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