I have had the pleasure of speaking to all kinds of Law Firm leaders over the years.

I make no comment on the overall aesthetics of a profession not renowned for movie star looks (a topic for a separate post perhaps) but what differentiates the good from the... well less good? I was given plenty of sound generic advice: "Be precise, clear and firm. Being right is quite good, too." I received words of caution: "You must fool some of the people all the time; those are the ones to concentrate on." This from one of my favourite lunch companions: “Never gossip - take secrets to the grave" showed good sense but little self-knowledge.

However, the more I collected the nuggets of wisdom from the legal Good and the Great, the clearer it became that what makes the really good stand out are their active listening skills. Claire Chapman (GC at DMGT) told me: "Listen - not just for what's being said, but for what's not being said, and how it is not being said." Be available, walk the floors, be seen and speak clearly.

But the really good know when to shut up. As Steve Williams (former GC at Unilever) told me: "Some use silence effectively. Lawyers on the whole are better at filling it." Know your audience and speak their language - and you will only do that if you really listen.

For those who prefer a more robust leadership style the films of Clint Eastwood - a man who understands silence - offer many instructive tips: "You see, in this world there's two kinds of people, my friend. Those with loaded guns and those who dig." In too many law firms all you hear is digging.