10 traits all successful leaders in Law share
Walk into any bookstore on the high street and the Business – or How-to section – is the one that always seems to grow and grow each time you go in there. It’s the same online too, as our insatiable appetite for knowledge that can empowers us in our careers continues to rise.
Which is perhaps not surprising, given the fact that competition for the best positions is also increasing as is the demand and expectation placed upon those already occupying the top jobs.
Indeed, the legal sector in particular has continued to grow along an upward trajectory for almost a decade now, with mergers, acquisitions and globalisation dominating the scene particularly over the last two to three years.
This has served to increase the pressure on those at the top of the law firm’s organogram. But being a leader is a job that demands a certain set of skills and characteristics in order to be successful.
Here, based on our own experiences as legal practitioners, we highlight the 10 traits of successful legal leaders:
- They focus on “we” not “me”:
Your success will be evaluated by your ability to create and maintain a highly engaged workforce that is free from any silos and works together towards a set of commonly held objectives for the business. It is the teams’ successes that take priority over your personal career aspirations.
- They invest in their weaknesses:
Successful leaders know their strengths and are equally aware of their weaknesses too. Bo doing so, they plug these gaps by seeking out people whose skills set compliments their own; thereby, freeing them to focus on doing what they do best.
- Be a credit maker, not a credit taker:
Harry S. Truman famously stated: “It is amazing how much you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” Taking responsibility for mistakes, publicly celebrating all wins (big or small) and giving credit for a ‘job well done’ will build loyalty with your team while serving as a reminder that it is you who is still in charge.
- They engage with every level of the business:
Staff retention is one of the greatest challenges facing all law firms. Two of the biggest reasons why people seek to leave their current employer are because they have a poor relationship with their managers and they feel disenfranchised with the firm – they don’t feel engaged with the business. Successful leaders recognise the importance of holding on to their best talent and significant role an effective staff engagement and internal communications plan can have in addressing this.
- They delegate appropriately:
Great leadership is not about carrying the burdens of every department on your own back, it’s about picking the right people to manage the right tasks and having the faith in your people to deliver results.
- They lead by example:
Successful leaders are those who practice what they preach, they walk the talk. When there is a disconnect between what a leader says and what they do, there is also an erosion of trust. But don’t micromanage. Being the most skilled or knowledgeable is one thing, but suffocating the team’s innovation can be destructive. Remember, you are trying to develop a team of experts and your job is to lead and play a supportive role too.
- They are very determined:
Aristotle said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Focus on your goals and resolve to achieve them. Only then will you stand any chance of getting where you want to be.
- They keep a close eye on the competition:
Whilst it’s important to keep a check on what your competitors are doing, remain focused on what you and your firm have to offer. Being fixated on the actions of others is a risky business: If a firm is thrown by a curve ball thrown by a rival practice, it could distract and even threaten to derail it from its longer-term objectives. Instead, strong leaders remain focused and committed to an agreed strategy and while there may be occasions when a slight change of course is required, the objective remains the same.
- They strive to be their better selves:
Continuous personal development is critical to leadership success. “Make sure you don’t stagnate or become complacent. Surround yourself with people who will challenge you, read books, attend training sessions, and above all else, keep healthy. Ensure that you are always at the top of your game.
- They listen…a lot:
It can be lonely job being a leader and while it is your job to provide the strategic direction for the law firm, you cannot possibly have all the answers for every challenge the firm faces. Nor can you be expected to be in top of everything that is happening in your sector that could impact on your firm. So if you sometimes struggle to raise your head above the parapet, speak to your teams. Good leadership is about listening as well as speaking.