Most of us probably like to think of ourselves and our firms as ‘ethical’ and ‘decent’. Couple this with values and our other systems and we are inclined to think we are doing what we can and should in regard to ethics. Cynthia Schoeman, who presented a topical keynote on ethics for business leaders at the 2011 Boss of the Year Award convention in South Africa warns that this may not be enough. She highlights a number of challenges and things we can do to be better prepared. I think the points she made have particular relevance for legal leaders.

Fault-line patterns – © 2011 Sean Larkan

Cynthia highlighted a number of ethical issues and challenges for leaders within the context of the present economic environment:

  • ethics is the new fault-line of leadership
  • what has changed in recent years is the level of visibility arising from ethical slip-ups; this has increased substantially
  • ethical failures have the potential to cause untold harm – the BP oil spill provides a graphic example as does the News of the World scandal. While the cost of clearing up the oil was massive, as will be the payouts in relation to News of the World, but the companies will not get credit for such payments, but rather how they handle the fallout.
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I talked on leadership tips and frames at a keynote at the annual Boss of the Year Awards Convention in South Africa in August 2011.

Brand Pretorius, recently retired former head of Toyota and McCarthy Motor Holdings in South Africa and a recognized ‘captain of industry’, also delivered a keynote drawing on his extensive leadership experience, with some very wise counsel for aspiring and existing leaders. I thought his leadership tips would be of particular interest to legal leaders – what follows is drawn from my rough notes of his talk –

Image by Patrick Hoesly

By way of introduction he noted that:

  • throughout his career he learned something new about leadership every day of his career and continues to do so.
  • a search on the internet will reveal in excess of 15 million books on leadership and management; clearly, a complex subject.
  • leadership is both an art and a science.

Important leadership tips:

Leadership is not management

  • to be an effective leader one has to strike the right balance between leadership and management
  • management is about things, processes, planning and speed
  • leadership is entirely different;
  • with leadership you have to have the courage to go first
  • leadership is about giving direction and inspiring and influencing people.
  • he said at times he felt he erred in placing too much emphasis on management and not enough on leadership – one often sees this in organisations, many of which are over-managed and under-led.

If you cannot manage yourself it is impossible to lead others effectively

  • you have to develop the ability to lead and manage yourself.
  • it is vital that leaders must have sufficient Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in that leaders need to be able to both understand and manage their own emotions and cultivate good relationships with others.
  • some leaders are functionally good but emotionally illiterate.


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