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John Roberts & you: ‘supreme’ leaders?

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in Leaders & Managers

You and new Chief Justice John Roberts could probably both learn a lot from the long history of what it takes to lead the U.S. Supreme Court … or any team of unusually independent prima donnas, for that matter.
  1. Temperament—which governs the chief justice’s skills as diplomat, cajoler and unifier—is his most important tool as team leader. It is not, as most people suspect, his ideology. (After all, even a chief justice has only one vote among nine.)

  2. Humility. As team leader, Roberts must never put on airs. John Marshall, widely considered the greatest chief justice in American history, showed no signs of pretense. Example: He wore a simple black robe instead of the scarlet and ermine frippery popular in his day.

  3. Organization and reliance on procedure. Chief Justice William Rehnquist was known for running a tight ship.

  4. Intellectual honesty. Besides being vain and pompous, Chief Justice Warren Burger would sometimes change his vote at the last minute so that he could write the court’s most important opinions himself. That so enraged his colleagues that a few of them finally ratted out Burger to the press.

  5. Sociability. The companionable Marshall insisted that the justices room together in the same boarding house so they could drink wine and discuss cases sociably. Under shy and somewhat acidic successor Roger Taney, however, the justices broke ranks and moved out.
— Adapted from “The New Boss,” Jeffrey Rosen, The New York Times Magazine.

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