In my work with lawyers, I have found that many who are truly brilliant in the courtroom; struggle to inspire and engage their team in the office conference room.
Leadership can be an even greater challenge when all you really want to do is practice law.
Great lawyers can be great leaders. In order to do so, they must be not only inspirational but aspirational as well. Leadership as so much more than a title, role or duty and has almost nothing to do with being a rainmaker.
Leadership is a way of life in every aspect of our lives because how you live is how you lead.
It is crucial to learn how to lead without being bossy or controlling. Learning to lead powerfully and effectively will help you create happy, healthy and productive relationships at home and at the office, with partners, staff, and clients.
Doing so will also help you to:
- Get the respect you desire and the results you need;
- Create a Circle of Influence that is mutually beneficial to you and the individuals you lead;
- Listen in a way that will change your life; and
- Avoid the biggest challenges facing law firms in the age of NewLaw.
I believe there are 5 Core Principles of Leadership. When I work as a coach & consultant for law firms, corporations, municipalities, and universities, I ask them to identify areas where these 5 Principles need further development.
The first Law may shock you, so get ready . . .
Unwritten Law of Leadership No. 1 – LOVE
Yes, LOVE! All of my work begins with determining whether an organization’s processes and procedures see ‘human resources’ as real human beings who matter.
I challenge leaders to see every employee as a person who is precious and loved by someone else as a spouse, child, parent or friend, as well as a person they are sharing the human experience with. That human connection allows us to elevate business and professional interactions and to resist relegating individuals to line items or performance criteria and models.
Choosing a love for humanity approach develops leadership from a people first perspective.
What could be better?
Unwritten Law of Leadership No. 2 – LISTEN
I work extensively with individuals and groups on the art of purely listening.
Take some time to observe the way people engage in conversation. You will notice, perhaps with great surprise, that very few people really know how to listen. Most will interrupt the other person while that person is speaking before they have had the opportunity to express the fullness of their thoughts.
One of the most powerful ways to dignify another human being is to listen to them. Do not interrupt their flow of thought. Do not assume you know what they are thinking and had planned to say. Challenge yourself to wait until the person you are speaking with has completely stopped speaking before you respond. This simple act will literally change your life.
A leader can never effectively lead if they do not listen or even know how to listen to the people they are charged with leading.
Unwritten Law of Leadership No. 3 – LEARN
A leader must learn their team. Learn who they are and how they function as individuals and as a group to provide the kind of direction and support needed for them to give their highest and best performance. A “supervisor” can certainly issue commands that must and will be followed. However, in order to have real influence and engaged buy-in to a larger vision, leaders must learn and understand whom they are leading.
A major challenge in this regard is diversity. Many firms are experiencing difficulties in learning individuals and teams due to cultural and generational (i.e. Gen X and Y) factors. I often see a resistance to inclusion which creates and fuels conflict. Creating an awareness to and appreciation of cultural and generational differences is crucial to innovative industry leadership.
Unwritten Law of Leadership No. 4 – LEVERAGE
An effective leader must leverage all talent in their team. Every individual in any given group has innate and unique talents, strengths, abilities, and perspectives. Understanding the value of capturing and fully leveraging each person’s special contribution within a department, team or on a project can become the difference between success, and off-the-charts, AMAZING success.
I work with leaders to help them embrace the value in acknowledging and accessing the entire body of knowledge, skill set and work experience an employee brings with them to their current role. I challenge leaders to welcome a collaborative approach to leadership which is not threatened by the collective wisdom in the room but instead is made better by it.
Unwritten Law of Leadership No. 5 – THE LEADERSHIP PARTNERSHIP
Leadership is a partnership. It always has been and always will be. It is an unspoken agreement to lead and to be led. One simply does not exist without the other.
Many “leaders” get this wrong and confuse their leadership position with power, which is outwardly forceful and generally met with resistance, versus being empowered, which is attractive and constructive. The Leadership Partnership is powerful because it serves both those who lead and those agreeing to be led as it honors each role. It allows each to claim a dignified position within the organization’s mission.
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