Leadership in a time of crisis is playing out everyday in the battle against the Covid-19 virus: Leadership in our Country at all levels of government, leadership around the World, leadership in healthcare, in science, in business and the public sector and also leadership in legal issues and the rule of law. Hon. Edward G. McCabe, our Special Counsel, has devoted his career to leadership positions in law and in government. Judge McCabe has served as an Assistant District Attorney, North Hempstead Town Attorney, Nassau County Attorney, Supreme Court Justice, Nassau County Administrative Judge and Presiding Judge of the Appellate Term. In those roles, Judge McCabe mentored lawyers, government officials and administrators, many of whom now hold leadership positions of their own. Judge McCabe answered questions about leadership in a conversation with Michael Sahn.
Q. Judge, What are the qualities of a good leader, especially when a leader is responsible for decisions in a time of crisis that affect many people and institutions?
A. I have always believed that a leader must inspire confidence, make decisions based on facts, take charge and do the right thing - always. A leader also must listen carefully to others and give everyone a role in solving problems, set goals to get results, recruit people with character, be loyal to those you serve, and stay focused under fire. To do all this, any person in a leadership position must have passion for the job at hand and never be afraid of adjusting decisions as you move ahead. Achieving goals for the common good is what counts, not what is good for you.
Q. You were the Administrative Judge on 9-11. Everyone under your leadership that day remembers your speech in the Central Jury Part, where you said that the business of the Courts would go on despite the terrorist attack. You said that to do otherwise would give the terrorists a victory over America and our legal system. Tell me what inspired and guided you on 9-11, and likewise in dealing with other crises over the years, like Hurricane Sandy and the 2008 financial crisis.
A. I’ve always been dedicated to protect the rule of law and promote justice. I never gave a thought to closing the Courts on 9-11 because if I did that, I would let down all the people who sacrificed their lives for the simple reason that they were Americans. America is about the common good. Our legal system is the basis for our livelihood and for protecting the common good. Without the legal system and the rule of law, we have chaos. So, I had no doubt about what I had to do.
Q. Everyone who has worked for you learned one lesson very fast - “Tell me what you know, not what you think”. What was behind that “lesson” you taught so well?
A. That’s simple. To make decisions I needed the facts, not what people thought about an issue or what they believed the law said or what they thought the facts were. Learning the facts and knowing the law takes time and persistence. If someone didn’t have the work ethic to learn and tell me the facts, that person could not help in a time of crisis.
Q. Judge, I have a question for our times. Does leadership lead to hope?
A. Yes. A leader instills confidence in others that goals will be achieved and that people and institutions will be successful. Confidence leads to trust and trust to hope for a good result and outcome. In the end, it is all about hope. If people have hope, they are inspired to success, and they achieve goals that they otherwise would not attain. Right now, everything we do must be about confidence, trust and hope.
Adam H. Koblenz was awarded the Long Island Business News Leadership in Law Award in the Partner Category. Mr. Koblenz received this award due to his dedication both in the legal profession and in the community. Learn more about Mr. Koblenz here.
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