The 21st Century Legal Team Leader

The 21st Century Legal Team Leader

Pierre Landy, a speaker at the marcus evans European Corporate Counsel Summit 2010, shares his thoughts on the 21st century leadership style.

Interview with: Pierre Landy, Vice President & EMEA General Counsel, Yahoo


The leadership role is transforming completely, according to Pierre Landy, Vice President and EMEA General Counsel at Yahoo. We are going from an employment to a self-employment mentality, and the General Counsel who will be brave enough to endorse this concept will have long-enduring and successful legal teams. A speaker at the marcus evans European Corporate Counsel Summit 2010 taking place in Switzerland, 26 – 28 September, Landy highlights the key steps in the 21st century leadership style, and the best way of identifying the ideal person for each position.

What legal department management style would you recommend?

Pierre Landy: The old leadership style was all about the leader being responsible for doing everything: persuading people to be a part of their team, hammering out how things had to be done, and supervising them to ensure they were done. It was about fitting people into boxes.

At Yahoo, we follow the 21st century leadership style within the EMEA legal team, in which you have to be tough about the objectives you wish to achieve, and manage the outcome and results, not the process. It is all about crafting a vision, a picture of success, which outlines the concrete things that will be happening when you reach the top of your mountain. Jobs must be built around people’s strengths to help the organisation tackle its challenges. It is a more hands-off approach to legal department management – letting people tell you how they can contribute to the success of the team and the vision that was given to them.

This is a complete reversal of the former leadership role. It is going from an employment mentality to a self-employment mentality, from a place where managers supervise to one where employees manage themselves. General Counsel who will be brave enough to endorse this new concept will have long-enduring and successful legal teams. This may be difficult for lawyers who love the technicalities of their job, and getting involved in litigation and transactions. The leader’s role is to focus on making the team successful and working well together towards a greater aim. It is about getting people to volunteer to be part of your team.

How can the leader effectively communicate organisational objectives to the team?

Pierre Landy: A leader in the 21st century is someone who acts as a conductor of an orchestra and is able to make all the musicians play in harmony in order to create a wonderful symphony. Heads of legal should first give an objective to the team, the vision they have, then ask how they can best contribute towards the big goal. The team must decide how they can contribute to its success; the vision the leader creates must be very detailed and concrete so that people are able to make a judgment about it. The role of the leader is to make sure team members have great clarity around these factors, to end up with a team of self-managing people who take ownership, from making the best contribution to achieving the goals that the leader established.

What is the best way of identifying people’s skills?

Pierre Landy: First, create job descriptions with a list of the skills you are looking for. During the interview, ask behavioral questions in order to test how they react in certain environments or situations. Instead of asking them to describe the types of contracts they have worked on, it could be better to ask: “If you are told to work on 10 different things at the same time, all with a deadline of tonight, what would you do?” This type of question does not deal with technical skills, but how a person practically deals with a situation. Based on the answers, one can determine the candidate who will be pragmatic or theoretic. This is the first sign to help you cast your people.

Secondly, when you have new team members, identify their strengths. For example, you can get them to do the test from the book by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton called, “Now Discover your Strengths”.

Look at the roles you have available according to the mission taking place, and remember the analogy: It is about having the right people on the right bus in the right seat. The Yahoo concept pays attention to the diversity of strengths in order to make sure the team is fully effective without ever forgetting that it is also crucial to get the spirit of the team right – the heartbeat of the team – the characteristics that will be a hallmark of your team. Great teams have a similarity of spirit (for example, team members will have a positive approach to things), and a diversity of strengths. If you have diversity of spirit in the team, you then get into trouble.

What long-term strategies would you recommend to General Counsel?

Pierre Landy: The last thing I would recommend to a leader would be to spend a moment discussing their leadership style with team members. Many people take too long trying to figure out how to work with their leaders, which can be easily fixed by the leader pronouncing how to best work with them. By taking a moment to declare their leadership style, they will save so many headaches later on as people will understand how their manager functions.

You need to be strong about the outcomes you want and let your people take ownership for the day to day. Then, you will have a greater chance of getting a team characterised by the quote from Lao Tzu: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
Sarin Kouyoumdjian-Gurunlian

Press Manager
marcus evans, Summits Division
Tel: + 357 22 849 313
About the European Corporate Counsel Summit 2010

This unique forum will take place at the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, Montreux, Switzerland, 26 – 28 September 2010. Offering much more than any conference, exhibition or trade show, this exclusive meeting will bring together esteemed industry thought leaders and solution providers to a highly focused and interactive networking event. The summit includes presentations on competition laws, mergers and acquisitions and compliance programmes.

For more information please send an email to or visit the event website at

Please note that the summit is a closed business event and the number of participants strictly limited.

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