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According to recently published research by an executive search firm, general counsels are better "forecasters," "harmonizers," and "producers," than their counterparts on a company's executive team.
As explained by the ABA journal, two of these three attributes can be explained by the legal profession's natural tendency for cautiousness. However, excepting the forecaster score where GCs only trailed non-lawyer CEOs by a couple points, GCs scored higher than other executive positions in these three important categories.
So what are these characteristics, and what's this all about anyway?
The GC as Forecaster
A forecaster is exactly what it sounds like, a person who can take what they know and learn, then predict the future. Realistically, in business, this equates to understanding not just the economics, but also the potential liabilities and understanding which risks to take and when to take them.
Non-lawyer CEOs have a bit of an edge over lawyers when it comes to forecasting, likely due to the more risk averse nature of lawyers leading to less risks and less rewards.
The GC as Harmonizer
The harmonizer role is best described as the person who keeps everything in harmony. They make sure everyone is playing by the book, and that everyone is actually using the same book. Harmonizers can spot the issues and problems in a business and find the resources or solutions.
It's almost as if this characteristic was custom built to give attorneys an advantage.
The GC as Producer
When it comes to output, GCs score rather highly against their counterparts. Although the risk adverse nature of GCs may prevent some actions from ever happening, there's no doubt that attorneys know how to produce results.
The legal industry is service oriented, and to be a good attorney, one must be able to both manage and meet their clients' goals.
What Does This All Mean?
These three characteristics were part of broader research that also looked at where General Counsel compared to other executives as collaborators, pilots, energizer, provider and composer. The goal of the research was find out what the most important characteristics are for executive leadership positions.