The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly. —Jim Rohn
We all have a notion about what we should “lead” like or what real leaders act like. I’ve seen a wide range of decisions attorneys make when it comes to leading their law firm.
On a scale of 1 to 10, maybe a 6 is actually the best place to be?
ONE: One end of the spectrum is the attorney who wants to be liked and be “part of the gang” at work. These attorneys are all about having fun, horsing around and being liked by their team. In my experience these types of leaders almost never build more than fleeting or occasional success for the firm and they rarely end up with a long term staff who respects them. There is typically a lot of staff turnover and also hit and miss goals being set or achieved because, quite simply, there’s a lack of leadership… but everyone’s having a good time (at least for the time being)!
TEN: The other end of the spectrum is the leader who is so serious and stiff, usually a little (or a lot) pompous and unapproachable to his or her staff. While the team may note some leadership and be clear about where they’re going and what the vision is, the leader has failed to build loyalty. If the leader doesn’t care and show that there’s concern for the team that is helping to achieve the goals, the team won’t have the loyalty to the leader when the chips are down.
Where’s the balance? It’s easy to create a little fun and recognition when things are going well, but the truth about what kind of leader you are will show up when the going gets a little tough.
Who are you when there’s stress? When the revenue is playing a little havoc, or a speaking engagement you’re a little nervous about isn’t coming together quite right? Are you all about you in those moments? It’s not a sign of weakness to circle the wagon and talk about the areas that you need a little additional support in for a project or period of time. If you’ve invested the time to generate loyalty, if you care about your staff and they know it… you’ve paved the way to be able to communicate honestly without appearing weak when it comes to certain types of support you may need.
All too often it seems that many of us take ourselves so seriously that we just don’t have a lot of fun. If you’re not having fun as a leader in your firm—you can bet your team isn’t either. Your biggest asset is a tight team all focused on the vision that you’ve communicated. To keep that focus, just remember to build in a little time for random acts of kindness and fun.
Don’t just notice the above and beyond things that go well. Notice the ordinary things that perhaps didn’t go well in the past until a particular person joined your team. Unless you’re going to fire someone who’s simply not a fit for your firm, make sure you assess how many deposits you’ve made to their ego before you kick into high gear and make a number of withdrawals. Pace yourself with criticism and correction (which is always done privately, by the way) and make sure you’ve spent equal time on recognition and acknowledgement (best done publicly).
I challenge you today to look around and notice something that you are often too busy to actually see in your team. Cause people who are executing on your vision to smile or laugh today. It doesn’t take as long as you might think.
Feel free to share a couple of tips for the 1’s and 10’s who may be reading this blog.
Chief Operating Officer
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128
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