We have adjusted the sails at the Greensboro Bar Association. The end of any term in a leadership position naturally brings thoughts of reflection. And this year for me as President of the Greensboro Bar Association is no different. I am satisfied with our performance over the last year and excited about our future. I cannot wait to see the great things that Lisa Arthur and her leadership team will bring to the membership. But what might normally be bittersweet feelings of leaving this position are unfamiliar this year. It seems like everything was different in May of 2019. Last May, I attended a reunion in Williamsburg, Virginia with fellow college classmates as we all turned age 50. We said we would make it an annual event. We held our second reunion, in 2020, by way of Zoom. Where and how will we meet in May of 2021?
My example represents so many others’ experiences and concerns about the future. Will we eat in restaurants like we used to, will we watch movies in a movie theater again, will we cheer at sporting events in large stadiums, will we take vacations, will we gather together for meetings, celebrations, dinner parties? I have no prediction. For me, the answers to these questions have a lot to do with leadership. The idea of leadership and how it entered my life this past year forced me to re-evaluate my response to a myriad of situations. So, in my final message, I want to talk about the importance of leadership.
“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”
Last month, I talked about how crisis, with all the negatives that come with it, can bring about beneficial change. It is no secret that the pandemic we now live with has refocused our attention on our leaders – at all levels of life – for answers to the question of how we move forward. For lawyers, we have seen exceptional leadership from our Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley who took the extraordinary measure of altering the rules of the court system to decrease personal contact and save lives. Similarly, our Guilford County Chief Judges – Joe Craig in Superior Court and Teresa Vincent in District Court – have navigated the path of keeping our courthouses open but with the safety of court employees, legal professionals and the public in the forefront of their decision making. We are fortunate to have strong, compassionate leaders in our legal system.
In trying to understand how different leaders might approach the same situation and take significantly different courses, a recent article argues that one attribute, above all others, determines a leaders’ decision making: mindsets. Mindsets are leaders’ mental lenses that dictate what information they take in and use to make sense of and navigate the situations they encounter. This study identified four ‘sets of mindsets’ most prominent in organizations: Growth vs. Fixed, Learning vs. Performance, Deliberative vs. Implemental, and Promotion vs. Prevention. Organizations that promote growth, learning, deliberative and promotion mindsets, they argue, see a better payoff. Gottfredson & Reina, To Be a Great Leader, You Need the Right Mindset (Harvard Business Review) (January 17, 2020).
I see these attributes as guideposts to evaluate leaders of any kind because they are predictors of how the leader will perform. Just like past decisions or behaviors provide some evidence of how we might perform in the future. What kind of leader are you? And, what kind of leader do you want in your organization? If these questions matter to you, consider the mindset of the leader.
Good luck to our incoming Board. I will continue to support you and this organization in any way I can next year. To our members, have a safe summer and best wishes in the weeks and months ahead.