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  • Writer's pictureBruce & Gail Montgomery

5 Leadership Lessons from the Two Worst Words in the English Language: Jury Duty

You've been there. You've felt it. Rifling through your just-delivered mail, your hands start shaking and dread wells up in the pit of your stomach. Clutched between your fingers, staring back at you is that terrible, awful, no-good missive: the jury summons.

This is usually followed by two utterances

  1. "Ah !@#%!"

  2. "How am I going to get out of this?"

This week was the second time in my life that I've been called to the Jefferson County Courthouse in Golden, Colorado to potentially serve on a jury and the first time I was actually picked.

And, much to my surprise, I'll tell you (without sarcasm) that it was a WONDERFUL experience.

How? How could this be possible?

Jefferson County Jury Summons

I was reminded how good leadership parallels good outcomes in the courtroom. After I was picked, here is a quick breakdown of the case:

  1. It was a criminal trial

  2. It was a domestic violence case

  3. The victim was a young, 25-year-old woman who did not deserve to have her face bashed in

  4. We found the defendant guilty on all charges

Beyond that, the nitty-gritty details of the case are not important. The LEADERSHIP lessons ARE. The courtroom provides a unique setting where individuals must collaborate, make decisions, and communicate effectively. Let's explore those lessons.

1. Listening to Serve:

One of the most fundamental aspects of leadership is the ability to listen actively. In the courtroom, jurors are required to pay close attention to arguments, testimonies, and evidence. This skill is directly transferable to leadership roles where understanding the needs and perspectives of team members is crucial. True leaders listen not just to respond but to comprehend, ensuring that every voice is heard and valued - this is true in jury deliberations, as well.

2. Asking Effective Questions:

I'll be perfectly honest, during voir dire (the process where the prosecution and the defense ask questions of potential jurors to determine who will serve on the actual jury) the defense was terrible. I mean truly awful at forming and asking questions.

It is critical that questions are succinct and easy to understand. You should look at people in the eye when you ask direct questions, and you should do the same when you respond. Asking effective questions can be the key to uncovering crucial information and reaching a fair verdict.

Leaders must similarly master the art of asking insightful questions to gather information, stimulate critical thinking, and encourage open dialogue within their teams. Effective questioning promotes a culture of curiosity and innovation, fostering an environment where problems are addressed at their roots.

3. Authenticity:

Authenticity is a powerful leadership trait that garners trust and respect. Serving on a jury requires jurors to bring their true selves to the deliberation room, setting aside biases and preconceptions.

Leaders, too, should strive to be authentic, embracing their strengths and vulnerabilities. Authentic leadership builds genuine connections with team members, creating a positive and inclusive work environment.

4. Collaboration:

A successful jury verdict is the result of collaborative efforts from individuals with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Leadership, too, is a collaborative endeavor, where a team's combined skills and ideas lead to success.

And we had a DIVERSE set of people on our jury - all walks of life. Electricians, accountants, teachers, super-fund cleanup PhDs.

Serving on a jury reinforces the importance of effective collaboration – understanding and leveraging the strengths of each team member to achieve common goals. Leaders who foster a collaborative spirit within their teams are more likely to navigate challenges and achieve sustainable success.

5. Resilience and Decision-Making:

Jury duty often involves long hours, challenging decisions, and the responsibility of determining another person's fate. This experience teaches resilience and decision-making – essential qualities for leaders facing adversity.

Leaders must be resilient in the face of setbacks, learn from mistakes, and make tough decisions when required. The ability to stay composed under pressure and make well-informed decisions is a hallmark of effective leadership.

Would I Serve on a Jury Again?

I'd do it again written image

Your damn right I would. I was proud of my fellow jurors. We took our responsibility very seriously, and we unanimously delivered what we felt was the just and right decision.

Serving on jury duty goes beyond fulfilling a civic obligation; it provides a unique opportunity to develop leadership skills that transcend the courtroom. By embracing the lessons of active listening, effective questioning, authenticity, collaboration, resilience, and decision-making, individuals can emerge from the jury box as stronger, more effective leaders in all aspects of life.

Plus, I'd want ME on a jury. Wouldn't you want someone like yourself on yours? Remember that the next time your called in.

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