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Academy molds future leaders

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Leadership Academy

MEMBERS OF THE WM. REECE SMITH, JR., LEADERSHIP ACADEMY pose on their first day of meetings, where they discussed leadership attributes, at the Bar’s recent Fall gathering in Tampa. On the second day, they heard from Nicholas Ari Shannin on leading a productive meeting, worked on setting a class project, and discussed civility and professionalism with U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven and Lanse Scriven, a former member of the Bar Board of Governors.

Academy molds future leaders

‘We’re doing it to solve problems and make our communities better’

When building a problem-solving team, an effective leader “gets the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus and gets the right people in the right seats,” according to Robyn Pearlman, quoting Jim Collins, author of the book, “Good to Great.”

Pearlman was a facilitator as the 2018-19 class of the Bar’s Wm. Reece Smith, Jr., Leadership Academy kicked off during the Bar’s recent Fall Meeting in Tampa. The session focused on defining leadership and how leaders act and inspire others to follow.

She asked the 30 academy members whether they were optimists or pessimists (pessimists are 10 times more accurate than optimists, but optimists are more likely to get things done because they keep trying), whether they primarily used their right or left brains, and the importance of knowing why an organization or business is doing something, not just what they are doing and how they are doing it.

Splitting the academy members up into groups, she set them to solving a problem, noting how each group’s mix of optimists and pessimists and right- and left-brained members led to different solutions.

Knowing why something is being done is key, Pearlman advised.

“Purpose is at the bottom of everything,” she said. “Mostly what it takes in life is your purpose and your priorities. Things just don’t happen.”

Pearlman also told the group to keep in mind the difference between mission and vision.

“Mission is what’s wrong with the world and how you intend to fix it,” she said. “Vision is what the world is going to look like because you have done your mission.”

Stefano Di Patigliatti, a Jacksonville attorney and vice chair of the Leadership Academy Committee, said knowing how to motivate people and spur their creativity is vital. He pointed to a study that gave the participants a candle and a box of tacks with the challenge to get the lit candle attached to a wall. Some participants were offered money for solving the problem, and some weren’t. (The answer is to take the tacks out of the box, thumbtack the box to the wall, and put the candle on it.)

Those not paid were significantly quicker in solving the problem. When presented with the same challenge, with the tacks already taken out of the box (where it was now seen as a tool), those offered the money were faster.

The lesson? Money isn’t always the way to motivate people, Patigliatti said. And people may have difficulty explaining their motivations because the part of the brain that controls motivation is not connected to the verbal cortex.

(That also can be why it’s hard for people to adequately explain why they love someone, Di Patigliatti said.)

Leaders must also take the time to understand the people they are working with.

“Abraham Lincoln said, ‘If I don’t like him, I must get to know him better,’” he said. “If you don’t see value in somebody it’s not their problem, it’s your problem. You haven’t seen enough.”

Leaders also find ways to encourage creativity. Di Patigliatti noted that Google has a policy of allowing people to spend 20 percent of their time on something “no one has told you to work on.” Some of the company’s most profitable ideas, including Gmail, have come from the “20 percent” practice.

Jay Kim, a member of the initial Leadership Academy class and now serving on the Bar Board of Governors, popped in to welcome the new academy members and he underscored the program’s purpose.

“Why are we here? We’re here because we love serving the community, we love solving problems, we love being part of an organization like The Florida Bar or local bars,” Kim said. “Ultimately we give back and we solve problems.. . . We’re doing it to solve problems and make our communities better.”

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