Wednesday, July 13, 2011

An Exquisite Weekend with Passionate Volunteer Leaders

Of particular refinement or elegance, as taste, manners, etc., or persons.
Any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling, as love or hate. 

This weekend I traveled to Austin, TX, home of the International Legal Technology Association, ILTA, to attend orientation for the organization's new Volunteer Officers as I was recently appointed as VP of its Servers Operations and Security Peer Group (PG), one of twelve PGs that conform one of three core columns that support the structure of the organization along with Regional Groups (RG) and Conference Committee (CC). New officers Chris Boyd, VP of Knowledge Management PG, Joanne Lane, VP of Litigation Support PG, and Kathryn McCarthy South Pacific Regional VP attended the meeting as well as members of the BoD Scott Christensen, President, and Michelle Gossmeyer, PGVP Liaison. ILTA was represented by the Exquisite Randi Mayes, Executive Director and the equally Exquisite Peggy Wechsler, Program Director. I wasn't really sure about what to expect going in other than a great conversation around leadership, which was not only accomplished, but surpassed. My main goal was simply to listen.

I was completely delighted to hear the way that Randi, who led the conversation, started the meeting. She talked about the two words that start the post as defined by Now, by definition passion can be good or bad, so when you are leading and communicating you have to be careful on how to use it and channel it in a positive way. We were reminded that Leadership is really a behavior and that controlling our emotions is an important part of it. Meanwhile, I love the context that Randi used when she talked to us about the word exquisite; communication and respect. These two words also reflect the way that ILTA's leadership is based on as stated by its core values, in short, by respecting each other while collaborating and being a steward to the organization and its members.

Leading to the meeting Randi sent out a couple of great articles on leadership in preparation to the meeting both by Jim Collins, "And the Walls Came Tumbling Down", which you can read here, and "The Misguided Mix-Up of Celebrity and Leadership." which you can find here . They both address different yet powerful aspect of leadership. The former tell us that great organizations that achieve sustainable success do embrace change and stimulate progress, but one thing remains pretty much unchangeable, their core values. They can evolve, they can mature, they can be re-written, but in essence core values remain unchangeable. Well, that is precisely how I have been able to advance my career, and the reason I believe that I was honored with the appointment as an officer of ILTA; I try to lead by sticking by my values and by modeling my behavior after them: Passion, Integrity, Commitment, Knowledge and Stewardship. Those are my core values and I see them very well aligned with those with the two world class organizations that I proudly represent Nexsen Pruet law firm and ILTA. So you see? I simply cannot stop being passionate because this quality is an important part of me. However, perhaps my passion and the way I apply it can evolve and become an even more powerful tool for me.
Another great point made in the article is that "true leadership is inversely proportional to the exercise of power". Again, this just confirms what I have always believed: first people starts following you, which makes you a leader, then you get recognition, whether it is by means of a title or not. I see leading as not exercising power; instead I see it as adding value and stimulating others to achieve common goals and personal and professional growth.

The second and equally great article "The Misguided Mix-Up of Celebrity and Leadership" talks about how good companies can evolve into great ones when they are led by individuals with objectives focused on the overall good of the company they serve, and whose "ambition is first and foremost for the institution and its greatness, not for themselves". Collins defines this type of leadership as "Level 5 Leadership." Level 5 leaders according to his studies possess all qualities of good leaders as defined by the other four levels "but also have and "extra dimension": a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will" I invite you to learn more about each level of leadership by reading the article. This goes back to the previous paragraph; leading is absolutely not about you but about others.

After reading about Level 5 Leadership I asked myself "How do I relate to it? And Can I become one such leader?" Collins gives us an example of a level 5 leader in Darwin E. Smith, former chief executive of Kimberly-Clark who remained pretty much unknown while transforming the business on a company that eventually beat monsters Procter & Gamble and Scott Paper in many categories. Darwin's vision and leadership was keen, but what struck me and I relate to is that he summed up his tenure by saying, "I never stopped trying to become qualified for the job." Wow! I so try to do that every day. Every day I try to be better and more efficient at doing my job and adding value to my team and The Firm that I represent.

Finally I was completely impressed with the different leadership styles and input of my fellow new ILTA VPs. Chris, an attorney and well-known Knowledge Management professional has been instrumental on the success of our KMPG as a founder member of the its steering committee (SC). What impressed me the most about him was his vision and exquisite, yet clear way to communicate; he even came up with a new line to express how ILTA relationship with its vendors should be viewed, something that Peggy, being the great leader she is, immediately recognized and will be adding to our arsenal. Joanne, who has built Litigation Support in different organizations from the ground up, is a proactive leader who does not shy away from stepping up and leading her team during difficult times, which she has already done twice during her tenure as a Litigation Support SC member, which ultimately led her to become the PGVP. Finally Kathryn, who has been a City Rep since 2006 and wears many hats at her firm, struck me as having a leadership style that combines thoughtfulness and creativity to drive people. Meanwhile, I have to thank Scott and Michelle for the exquisite job they’ve done as leaders of the BoD, and for trusting us with our new roles, which includes building the new leadership waves of ILTAns, just like they’ve done for years.

The day ended with a great local style dinner with fun conversations, followed by an old fashioned ILTA style social networking at the unique Austin's 6th Street, were we got to know each other better and have fun. I even learned that Chris and Kathryn are big soccer fans, one of my passions and topic of discussion in my next post about leadership.

About ILTA. For over three decades, the International Legal Technology Association has led the way in sharing knowledge and experience for those faced with challenges in their firms and legal departments. Through delivery of educational content and peer-networking opportunities, we provide members information resources in order to make technology work for the legal profession. Visit ILTA at