MSBA Leadership Academy 

BECOMING A LEADER
Reflections on the Leadership Academy
by: Adam Sean Cohen, Esquire 
(Leadership Academy Graduate - Fellows 2000)

I remember in 1999 when it was suggested that I apply to become a fellow in the Maryland State Bar Association's Leadership Academy. I remember thinking that I was not "leadership" material nor would I be able to be molded. I imagined that this "Academy" would resemble Starfleet Academy with hyper-enthusiastic attorneys wearing tight Space Suits and communicating via futuristic devices on their lapels. I imagined secret handshakes and code words. I WAS WRONG. The 18 month program has matured me as a person, as an attorney and as a bar leader.

As I completed the application questionnaire I realized how serious the MSBA took this endeavor and I resolved that once accepted, there was no turning back. I must admit, I was not very hopeful that I would be accepted in light of the talent pool available statewide. So many attorneys with so many stories and so many experiences. The best I could do was promise the MSBA that if selected I would commit 110% to the process. The funny thing is that I never realized how much I would get in return. I wish I could "bottle" and sell what I have obtained. I am, however, rich with the experience and all of the intended side effects.

I was blessed to have been selected to participate and was anxious to meet with the other 14 members of the Fellows 2000. As we were introduced by the Leadership Academy Chair, the Honorable Judge Charles B. Day, I was in awe. I literally thought I had wandered into the wrong reception. I was convinced that with the reading of their resumes, these individuals were professional "do-gooders". The quality and diversity was as incredible as it was refreshing. Member diversity is by far the most important aspect to the success of any organization. All individuals involved agree that with diversity comes the opportunity for differing perspectives and multiple approaches and solutions to problems. The program emphasized that learning from differences is just as powerful as learning from similarities. I would soon realize that each and every Fellow 2000 was humble and down to earth. I would soon come to respect and cherish them all deeply for differing reasons. This same respect and admiration remains constant for both past and future classes of Fellows.

I realized that the Fellows 2000 were chosen partly on our past history, but mostly on our potential. Chosen because we all agreed that we wanted to enhance and cultivate the "leader" in ourselves. There was no quantitative test given during the process to determine exactly when "leader" status had been achieved. It was clear from the onset that becoming a leader is the magnification of your strengths and finding the detours from your weaknesses. It was clear that being a leader is cultivating differing talents to accomplish a goal. It was clear that being a leader is being yourself plus focus plus purpose. No two leaders are alike: nor should they be.

Looking back, you can guarantee that Statewide, no matter which Courthouse I happen to be in, I will run into a Judge, a Fellow 2000, a Mentor, a former Fellow, or a current fellow involved with the program. It is nice to have familiarity even in very unfamiliar territory. These are the people I have come to count on for straight answers and advice, personally and professionally.

I am not the same person now as I was prior to the Leadership Academy experience. I see the importance of being active with the MSBA. I see the effect and influence of diversity on the future of the MSBA. I see no reason why anyone with the desire to enhance themselves, the profession and the MSBA should wait a single day longer to fill out an application.