President’s Message

When you are asked your approach to leadership or even tackling an involved project, are you a solitary actor or do you prefer to work within the framework of a group or team? I ask you to ponder this question and relate your experience in your career and personal life. Now that you have thought a bit about how you “operate,” you likely came to the conclusion that you take both approaches, depending upon what you think is best given the situation. 

For someone who is highly self-accountable, a sole fact-finder and decision-maker approach may experience a significant level of success, provided they have a full accounting of facts, information, and even known best practices when making decisions addressing a particular task.  Yes, there are tasks or projects that are much easier to resolve individually, be it because of their duration, impact (and impact on whom), and length of time involved to complete, to name a few factors in consideration. The trick is to ensure there is follow-through communication and thorough comprehension by all affected parties. When acting alone, we should not appear to be acting alone, rather in concert with the needs and interests of the group and community.

Collective decision-making also has its positives. Consensus building, which generally involves an engaging collaborative effort on the task at hand, is a trademark attribute of one who leads with a team. This individual rarely acknowledges they are in the lead; rather, she or he surrounds themselves with others at the point. Of course, seeking consensus has its own challenges. Everyone in the group must also set aside their individual interests (and egos) to work toward a common objective. Nothing else should take priority over the objective of resolving the task at hand. Humans can sometimes think and behave as solitary creatures, particularly in the workplace. Do you recall the expression when trying to lead a group that lacks cohesion or a shared vision? “It’s like herding cats.”

This is a challenge for all leaders, particularly in our courts.  The best and usually most successful leaders are the ones who can play to the individual strengths of everyone on the team while engaging colleagues and direct reports to operate within a framework to accomplish the objective. Renowned 20th-century author Rudyard Kipling says it aptly, “The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.” 

As you tackle the issues and challenges placed before you in your courts, may I suggest we do so with the vision of what is best for the court and the community it serves, while striving to reward or at least recognize the needs of the individual and the contributions each one makes. It is not easy. A good place to start is to ask for the perspective of others before giving your own.

Rick Pierce
Judicial Programs Administrator,
Administrative Office of the Courts, Pennsylvania