Susan Letterman White

The Heroic Leader’s Journey

If you have been reading the articles in this series, then you have a general idea of your leadership skill-set, your motivation to lead, and the steps to move into leadership positions. Click here, here, here, here, and here for past articles in this series. You may have discovered a list of gaps, which you will need to close in order to move yourself closer to successful leadership. Perhaps you need to increase your book of business, find an internal mentor, or improve your strategic communication skills. Each of these gap-closing steps requires its own action plan, which is a…

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Susan Letterman White

Do You Really Want to Be a Leader? Find Your Motivation to Lead and Unleash It

Leading is “difficult and dangerous work” according to Ronald Heifetz, Marty Linsky, and Alexander Grashow, authors of The Practices of Adaptive Leadership. It’s taking charge of making a difference, to paraphrase the recent television ads for American Express. But, making a difference in what, with whom, to what end, and through which actions? Leaders constantly rely upon their motivation to lead. The clearer the motivating forces are to the leader, the easier it will be for her to use her motivation to drive her leadership initiatives forward.If you want to find your motivation to lead, start by answering these questions:1.…

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Susan Letterman White

Leadership, Power, and Politics: How Can You Obtain the Power to Shape Action in Your Organization?

Law firms, governmental agencies, law schools, corporations, not-for-profit agencies, industry groups, and small businesses are organizations. Organizations are systems of government; they are “intrinsically political,” says Gareth Morgan in his classic book, Images of Organization. What does this mean for you? Attaining personal power in any organization depends upon understanding how the power necessary to make decisions and shape action is actually assigned. If your goals include attaining power in your organization or developing a book of business from a current client or target client organization, you must understand and successfully manage yourself in the political waters of the organization.…

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Susan Letterman White

Assessing Your Leadership Skills

The following is a leadership skills inventory to help you understand yourself better and think about how to capitalize on your strongest skills and strengthen your weaker ones. This inventory should be used after reading the first two articles of this series. It incorporates the concepts from those articles. Click here and here to read those articles. This inventory does not assess your leadership style or personality, two views of leadership, which I believe have a cultural bias that favors white men over women and minority lawyers. This inventory is adapted from the skills inventory created by Peter G. Northouse…

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Susan Letterman White

The Skills for Leading in the Current Legal Landscape Are ...

Any woman who graduated from law school and passed a bar exam is capable of developing all the necessary skills to lead her organization. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Do not buy-in to the idea that you need charisma or a particular temperament. Do not let anyone convince you that you must be magically endowed with the right leadership traits or style. Good leadership flows from continually learning and refining the right set of skills for the unique context of your law firm, practice group, in-house law department, law school, or other legal organization. Leadership is a process…

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Susan Letterman White

Hidden Mindsets, Storytelling, and the Advancement of Women Lawyers

One reason that it’s so difficult for women lawyers to advance is the way the stories of their accomplishments are told. I chose the word “tell” over the word “report” because everyone wears blinders when observing and forming judgments about the world. Even the most honest and objective reporter carries around hidden mindsets - lenses through which s/he sees and interprets experience. Recently, I read a story and wondered why it wasn’t told differently. The differences I will suggest may appear to be subtle to some, meaningless to others, and non-existent to a few; but, I am certain they are…

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Susan Letterman White

Find Yourself a Living Metaphor

Ed. note: Susan Letterman White is a legal industry consultant. Prior to consulting, Susan managed her own solo practice while raising children and then joined Hepburn, Willcox, Hamilton, & Putnam in Philadelphia as an associate, became a partner, and then the managing partner. In addition to her J.D. (from Loyola Law School), Susan also has a master's degree from American University in Organizational Development. There is no one right way to be a successful lawyer and there are many definitions of success. I am a 51 year-old former litigator and law firm managing partner, divorced mother of 2 grown children,…

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