ILANZ, In-House Lawyers Association of New Zealand


Corporate Courage and the Crisis of Trust

Corporate Courage and the Crisis of Trust

By Donna Llewell ILANZ committee member and In-house Legal Counsel, Bay of Plenty Regional Council Toi Moana| 29 November 2019

It was a real privilege to represent Kiwi in-house lawyers at the recent ACC Australia 25th National In-house Legal conference in Adelaide.


I think the collective of our ILANZ Vice-President, myself as ILANZ Committee, a kiwi speaker and our friends from LawVu as exhibitors – were great ambassadors for Aotearoa / New Zealand.  The reputation of our Prime Minister was regularly and positively commented on – but I was not so sure on advocacy that NZ could become a state of Australia and/or the whole of our country be declared a National Park…


Dr Kirstin Ferguson (Deputy Chair of Australian Broadcasting Corporate) inspired me to consider the future of in-house legal leadership and ponder the question “What legacy will you be leaving for your organisation?”.  Utilising three examples of corporate crisis and downfalls (Boeing 737 Max planes (engineering & design), Nokia (innovation & competition) and Wells Fargo (unscrupulous practices & behaviour) – Kirstin’s key message was that success in law and corporate business requires bold, courageous leadership in an emotionally intelligent way. More to the point – TRUST cannot be built, broken and then rebuilt…


It is important for in-house lawyers to consciously and regularly think about the impacts of our leadership styles within the legal fraternity, industries and organisations we serve.  Are you modelling and maintaining positive relationships, demonstrating good judgment and expertise, being consistent, setting an example for others and really walking the talk, talking the talk? 


Kirstin reflected on her first career in the military, and despite the accolades of success and top cadet for her year – there was generally a deemed and requisite “culture of silence”.  Going against that convention would be career limiting and demonstrated that fear is not an effective motivator.  That fear principle is relevant in every profession and workplace.  One may be BOLD in a role, but unless the BEHAVIOUR is also present in role – then failure is more than likely.


In-house legal leaders of the future will need to upturn previously silent corporate cultures and equip their organisations and colleagues to challenge the status quo with courage and emotional intelligence.  The critical components of this type of intelligence include:


  • Self-awareness – knowing yourself, your values, strengths and weaknesses;
    • Self-regulation – being calm, considered, controlled and capacity to redirect your impulses;
    • Motivation – understanding and celebrating the why do you do what you do, having passion and drive to seek new challenges;
    • Empathy – consideration, sensitivity and optimism; and
    • Social Skills.


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