I was a cross country runner when I was in high school in the mid 1970’s. Our team was good, but I certainly was not the best runner on the team. Generally, I was always somewhere in the middle, never quite making it into scoring position. Our team was known as being one of the best in Virginia at the time. One of our coaches was a marathon runner himself. He insisted that everyone on the team run twice a day, and our mileage was fairly high for teenagers. Many of the athletes in my school in the traditional “big three” sports (football, basketball and baseball) looked on the distance runners as a bit crazy, and our extreme training as a bit compulsive.
Since that time, running seems to have become quite a popular activity among the masses. I have kept my running up over the years, and have observed that at times it is an activity that is almost a “fad”. Where the activity was once seen as a “non- mainstream” sport, it now seems to have become one of the most popular sports in the country; one where anyone and everyone can take part.
The recent “Leadership” craze might be considered by some to be akin to what happened with running. I recall going to my first leadership conference about nine years ago. I have been back to the same conference almost every year since. The first one I attended was held in a facility that seated about 2,000 people, and every seat was not taken. That same event is now held in an arena that holds 10,000, and there are very few empty seats available, with the premium seating selling out 6 months in advance. So is leadership just another “fad” to eventually fade away?
Leadership is certainly a word we hear quite a bit nowadays. We hear it in the press, we hear about it from politicians, and we talk about it in our law firms and business organizations. But what is it really? Is it just another way to say that a person is a good organizer of events, or a good manager of resources?
The word leadership seems to be one of those words that mean different things to different people; sort of like the word “hero”. “Hero” seems to apply equally both to successful NFL quarterbacks and those who risk their own lives to save the lives of others. To some folks “leadership” is primarily about having a position of power and force. In many law firms, leadership is viewed in this same manner, with most lawyers not really understanding that one of their main roles is to positively influence clients in some of the most important life decisions; and that is truly leadership at its core.
It is my hope this blog will provide lawyer leaders with guidance on what leadership is really all about, how they can become as effective as possible in influencing others to action, and how universal leadership principles can be most effectively applied in the unique setting of a law firm.
It is my hope you will come to see that true leadership, defined in relation to service of others, is not just the latest fad.