Servant Leadership Workplace-Lawyers

Work in a World Where Lawyers Aren’t Necessary?

My post last week was called “CYA Behavior – Symptom of Low Trust.”

In it, I suggested that low levels of trust plague countless workplaces. CYA behavior is a symptom of the low-trust illness. I went on to describe just how wasteful C-ing-Your-A (I may have just made up that word) can be.

But in response to my post, one reader pointed out that CYA behavior could be an important component of risk management.

That made me wonder.

Having practiced law in the early part of my professional life, I made a living in the CYA trade. But, could it be possible to live – or at least work – in a world where trust was so high that it was no longer necessary to CYA?

Or, to put it another way, could it be possible to work in a world where lawyers aren’t necessary?


Consider the example of Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett in acquiring McLane Distribution – a $23 billion company – from Wal-Mart, as described by Stephen M.R. Covey:

“As public companies, both Berkshire Hathaway and Wal-Mart are subject to all kinds of market and regulatory scrutiny. Typically, a merger of this size would take several months to complete and cost millions of dollars to pay for accountants, auditors, and attorneys to verify and validate all kinds of information. But in this instance, because both parties operated with high trust, the deal was made in a two-hour meeting and a handshake, in less than a month, it was completed.

In a management letter that accompanied his 2004 annual report, Warren Buffet wrote: ‘We did no “due diligence.” We know everything would be exactly as Wal-Mart said it would be – and it was.’” *

Servant-leaders are both trusting and trustworthy. At the same time, they have foresight. So, yes, servant-leaders recognize situations when some CYA will be appropriate for risk management.

Indeed, the Berkshire Hathaway/Wal-Mart case is probably an outlier. It’s rare to have such trust in business. But that level of trust is surely something that servant-leaders in the workplace aspire to achieve.

Do you agree? What would you add?

Let us know.

As always, we appreciate your views. Thanks!

And be sure to download our latest ebook, Servant Leadership in the Workplace: A Brief Introduction. It’s free!


* Stephen M.R. Covey, The Speed of Trust, The One Thing That Changes Everything (New York: Free Press 2006) 15.

Building a trusting team is one of the three key priorities for servant-leaders in the workplace. You’ll find a lot of good servant leadership wisdom in Stephen M.R. Covey’s book. For more on the subject of servant leadership priorities: “Servant Leadership – 3 Workplace Priorities.”

P.S. No lawyer-bashing is intended here. I know lots of servant-leader lawyers. And remember, Mohandas Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were lawyers.