How to Be a Visionary Leader: Learn to spot early signals of change

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Lawyers -- whether in law firms, in corporate legal departments, or in other settings -- need to be visionary leaders. After all, attorneys are also business people, managers, and supervisors.

Although lawyers don't often have the training in leadership that executives on the business-side do, make no mistake -- leadership is a learned skill. Developing a vision is a key part of successful leadership, says Rob-Jan de Jong, a professor of an executive leadership program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and author of "Anticipate: The Art of Leading by Looking Ahead" (Amacom, 2015). 

The two most critical skills of a visionary leader are: 

  • "Seeing things early" so that you can get ahead of problems coming down the pike or, alternatively, position yourself to take advantage of changing times, and
  • "Connecting the dots" and considering like scenarios (good and bad) that your team, organization, or industry might face in both the short-run and the long-run

Again, lawyers don't often think of themselves as having a visionary leadership role. But if you who want to advance to general counsel or chief legal officer positions, you'll need to demonstrate this type of leadership in the legal department as well as in partnership with business units and executive management teams.

Read Dori Meinert's "How to Be a Visionary Leader: Learn to spot early signals of change" in SHRM's HR Magazine.