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Fall 2022 Reading Group

Polarities: The Power of “Both/And” in Law and Leadership

Prerequisite: Open to students who have completed the Negotiation Workshop in the past, or are registered to take it in the 2022-2023 academic year

Exam Type: No Exam

Lawyers should be skilled at advocacy and inquiry. We must tell clients the candid truth and deliver the message diplomatically. We have a duty to respect the law and a calling to evolve it.

We have all faced situations where our choices feel diametrically opposed, yet neither option seems sufficient on its own. Do I focus on my own needs or someone else’s? Is the need for change more pressing than the arguments supporting stability? If I had to choose between a society that values justice or mercy, which should it be?

These choices aren’t false dichotomies, but they do trick us into thinking the answer is selecting one over the other. Instead of Either/Or, the response should be Both/And. The instinct to “choose” isn’t our fault. In fact, it has been key to our survival. The human brain evolved so we could make life-or-death decisions quickly. The impulse to make Either/Or choices serves us well when faced with a problem, but it is limiting when faced with a polarity.

Polarities are interdependent opposites that need each other to succeed over the long haul. They include some obvious examples: Our bodies require both Rest and Activity. Our lungs must inhale and exhale. Leaders need the ability to Act and Reflect. As for the more nuanced examples of polarities above: We should focus on our own needs and the needs of others; it is important to promote change and maintain functional stability; and all legal systems must honor the co-extensive principles of justice and mercy.

This reading group will examine the theory and practice of polarities as applied to Self, Leadership, and Society. We will map core polarities and apply this new awareness to our own lives, organizations, and the larger world around us. Each student will have the opportunity to take the Key Polarity Assessment, a tool that provides insight into personal preferences and blind spots. Through the lens of polarities, students will build the capacity to see and hold conflicting values with curiosity and respect. The result will be enhanced leadership potential, professional maturity, and a greater ability to unlock the increasingly complex world that awaits after graduation.

Note: This reading group will meet on the following dates: 9/29, 10/6, 10/20, 10/27, 11/10, 11/17.