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Leadership: Do you have what it takes?

August 25, 2017

As routine and repetitive tasks are steadily taken over by machines, personal skills and characteristics will become critical for job security and progression. High on the list are leadership and influencing skills. These are critical to opportunities for advancement and also for gaining ‘trusted adviser’ status.

A recent survey by executive leadership firm Heidrick & Struggles casts interesting light on different types of leader and their related attributes. For the commercial community, of particular interest is the analysis they undertook of lawyers, who scored well in some categories, but showed potentially fatal weaknesses in others.

So where are the strengths? Lawyers scored especially well in being learning-oriented and visionary, reliable and execution-focused. But on the counter-side, the survey reesults reveal ‘a tendency to be overcautious’ and that lawyers are significantly less comfortable with ambiguity, scoring more than 15 percent lower on average than CEOs and other C-level executives. These are serious drawbacks in a business environment where speed, adaptability and a readiness to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity are critical characteristics.

This research came to mind today during a conversation with an executive from a major supplier to the oil and gas industry. It mirrored the issues highlighted above – a frustration by executives that the legal and contracts team is not keeping pace with the market and is making ‘the wrong assessment of risk’. Even worse, they are perceived too often as indulging in ‘adversarial behavior’ within an industry where collaboration is increasingly seen as key.

These are recurrent issues and to resolve them, commercial staff need to become far more holistic in their understanding and assessment of risk, as well as in their adoption of a wider range of mitigation and avoidance methods. This includes a more balanced focus on risk likelihood and an appreciation that traditional approaches to risk allocation frequently generate counter-risks that can be more severe than the issues they seek to address. As markets shift to more focus on outcomes and performance, we need different contracting models and more robust governance methods. Today, good risk management is not about avoiding risks – it is about identifying ways in which they can be accepted and managed. This is a critical shift for legal and contract management personnel and a key area for IACCM training.



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