Female GCs “more likely to coach and mentor” than men

Floydd: Lawyers should be more authentic at work early in their careers

Female general counsel are more likely to coach, mentor and develop their direct reports than male GCs, new research has found.

The study also found that GCs of both genders were more likely to describe themselves as ‘conceptual’, ‘demonstrative’ and someone who ‘takes charge’ compared to in-house lawyers generally.

The characteristics considered most important by GCs were “largely aligned” irrespective of age, experience and gender. However, there were two competencies where women and men responded differently.

Male GCs chose ‘working together’ as one of the most important competencies required for the role. This was described as “collaborating well with others and demonstrating commitment to their employer”.

Women, on the other hand, selected ‘coaching and developing others’ as one of the most important competencies.

Researchers said: “This aligns with research from the Harvard Business Review, which found that female leaders are more likely to coach, mentor and develop their direct reports than their male counterparts.”

Legal recruitment specialists Laurence Simons gathered responses from 149 general counsel and asked them to identify competencies most important for their role.

GCs were more likely to highlight being ‘conceptual’, ‘demonstrative’ and someone who ‘takes charge’ as important qualities, while in-house lawyers in general emphasised being ‘practical’, ‘reliable’ and ‘competitive’.

Both groups of lawyers said it was very important to be ‘tough’ and ‘logical’. Bottom of the list of qualities for GCs was being ‘measured’, ‘evidence-based’, ‘adaptable’, ‘accommodating’ and ‘intimate’.

Researchers commented: “Legal roles inherently require a heightened sense of vigilance and sensitivity to risk, and so while some lawyers will naturally have the extroverted qualities found in the GC sample, the danger is they may not allow themselves to be their authentic selves at work through taking a more cautious approach.

“Holding the competencies and qualities of the GC sample may differentiate a lawyer from their peers.

“The risk is that they may perceive this difference as a negative and attempt to hide their natural pioneering, people-focused and inspiring competencies to fit in with their peers and their environment.”

When GCs were compared to other senior executives, such as CFOs or CEOs, all groups agreed that being tough and logical were “essential”.

However, for GCs, the quality of being ‘conceptual’ was crucial, a quality not mentioned by CEOs or CFOs. Both general counsel and chief executives highlighted being ‘demonstrative’ and someone who ‘takes charge’.

CEOs thought being ‘reliable’ was essential. CFOs agreed, highlighting the need to be ‘collaborative’ and ‘practical’.

Angela Floydd, chief commercial officer at Laurence Simons, commented: “Legal counsel will often have underlying creative and collaborative qualities but tend to favour outcome and down-to-earth qualities in their everyday approach.

“To fast track the GC competencies, I would encourage lawyers early in their career to be more authentic at work and exercise their underlying creative thinking and people skills.

“When I qualified as a lawyer, I recognised myself as highly focused on outcome and results, the destination rather than the journey. Over time, I’ve seen the powerful impact of using people-focused competencies which can often be underestimated.”

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