The discussion of leadership in the legal department is ongoing, as general counsel increasingly find themselves sitting at the table, and involved in making difficult business decisions. But the process is not as straightforward as it may seem. Existing leadership in the legal department must look closely at the lawyers on their team and help them determine their own strengths and weaknesses. Those same leaders must be willing push their direct reports until their own preformance is challenged by the strong lawyers on their team.
These are among the philosophies espoused by Scott D. Chaplin, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary at ATK, a company in the global aerospace, defense and commercial products space. He sees the need for leadership development on his team because he feels there is a lack of attention on these skills for lawyers in the course of their training. “Most other executives in a company through business school or other areas get leadership training,” he says, “but law school and conferences don’t focus on leadership.”
For those lawyers who wish to hone their leadership abilities and who have the right skill set, workshops and activities can prove useful. Chaplin credits Mark DeYoung, CEO and president of ATK for connecting with the Flippen Group, a leadership organization that, interestingly enough, works primarily with athletes and coaches, though the company does have a business division. DeYoung’s idea was to look at leadership from a completely different angle, and, according to Chaplin, “the results have been astounding.”
The training is behavioral-based and very personal, according to Chaplin. Participants are forced to reflect on their personal behavioral attributes and reflect on the idea of leadership. Chaplin says he was skeptical at first, unsure as to how his personal qualities could impact his job, but after participating in the program, he sees its value. The program worked for the C-level executives at ATK, and has now worked its way down to the legal department with “great results for me and my staff, elevating our leadership skills,” says Chaplin.