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Leadership at professional organisations

To work and succeed at a law firm you need to understand where power lies and the politics of the organisation. Do you know who the key influencers are? Do you know how decisions get made? Are you invited to the right meetings? This can be challenging in any organisation but it’s even particularly nebulous at law firms and other professional services firms.

Professor Laura Empson’s new book, Leading Professionals: Power, Politics, and Prima Donnas surfaces the leadership power dynamics at professional organisations. It’s a truly fascinating account based on 500 interviews with partners across a range of professional organisations, and reading Professor Empson’s book is time well spent, regardless of your professional level.

In the words of one of the interviewees for the research: “Leadership sort of just happens”. And that is the nub of the issue, as that is merely a very beguiling illusion. Leadership does not just happen at these organisations. However, this can appear to be the case — as a substantially large element of leadership is socially constructed. And whilst it’s safe to assume that the above will indeed resonate with most people when dealing with leadership and politics at their organisation, it’s also true to say that it’s especially true for professional organisations such as law firms.

These are just a small taster of some of the issues raised by Professor Laura Empson’s new book entitled Leading Professionals: Power, Politics, and Prima Donnas. The book was officially launched at Cass Business School.

During the recent evening event, Professor Empson outlined some of the key concepts from her book which were then further discussed by an excellent panel with Margaret Cole (Chief Risk Officer & General Counsel and ExecutiveBoard Member of PwC); Sir Gerry Grimstone (Chairman of Standard Life Aberdeen, Deputy Chairman and Senior Independent Director of Barclays, and Independent Non-Executive Board Member of Deloitte NWE LLP); and, David Morley (Previously Global Senior Partner, Allen & Overy).

For anyone who was not there on the night itself, there is a recording of the lecture by Professor Empson. It’s well worth watching for anyone looking to gain insight into leadership at a law firm or any other professional organisation.

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