“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
– Jack Welch
“I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”
– Ralph Nader
These two quotes best express the dynamic, self-replicating nature of leadership that has made ACC such an enduring organization over the past 30 years.
Shortly after joining ACC in March of 1998, I was elected to the Board of Directors of the Southern California Chapter of ACC. I quickly learned that, as a member of a “working” board, I was expected to be fully engaged in projects, and not just issue directives or ideas for someone else to execute. In other words, as a chapter leader, I was expected to “do” as well as “say.”
For example, after suggesting that we provide free monthly MCLE programs for chapter members on topics of interest to in-house counsel, I helped develop and refine the chapter’s sponsorship program — the “engine” that drives our programs and events — staying up until 3 am for several nights in a row, drafting the sponsorship program document.
Later, as chapter vice president for programs, I proposed that we produce a day-long legal conference in January before MCLE compliance forms are due, to help our chapter members get the credits they need, especially credits in those hard-to-get subjects such as elimination of bias in the legal profession and prevention of substance abuse. I ended up putting together and launching the chapter’s first In-House Counsel Conference, which has since become a successful annual event, and is now held in two different locations in Southern California.
The following year, after being elected president of the chapter, I addressed our board — particularly our newer directors — and highlighted the meaning of a “working” board. I emphasized the value of this position by declaring that being on the board is the ultimate “testing ground” for future leaders — where in-house lawyers can practice and develop their incipient leadership skills, and propose and execute program ideas and projects in a friendly setting. Where else can colleagues and peers offer advice, management tips and constructive criticism, with little risk to one’s career?
Now, as a member of the ACC Board of Directors, I find it particularly gratifying to see many of ACC’s young chapter and committee leaders becoming effective leaders and accomplished professionals. Over the past 30 years, ACC has not only achieved great milestones in the evolution of the in-house bar community as a whole, but it has also continued to invest in the professional growth and development of the individual in-house professional. Just like the “circle of life,” ACC endures and prospers, because of how it fosters and celebrates the “circle of leadership.”
Vincent Gonzales is Senior Environmental Counsel for Southern California Gas Company, in Los Angeles. He was ACC’s Member of the Year in 2007, and was just profiled in November/December 2012 issue of MCCA’s Diversity and the Bar magazine.