Essential Qualities of an Effective Leader Part 1: Servanthood
I am often asked the question: What are the qualities of an effective leader? I’ve heard many leaders speak to this question, most with different answers; usually different qualities and differing views on the importance of each.
I believe that there are three basic qualities that are found in the most effective leaders, whether they are leaders with position, or simply persons of influence without a title. I believe these qualities are important whether you are a leader in a law firm or a participant in any other endeavor in life. These three qualities are: 1) Mission, 2) Trust and 3) Servanthood. Over the next three blog posts, I will explain in details my thoughts regarding each of these policies, in reverse order. So first, let’s take a look at the concept of “Servanthood”.
Early on in my study of leadership I was exposed to a view of leadership known as “Servant Leadership”. Through my study of this concept, I discovered that event though you have a title, and even if you do not, your effectiveness as a leader to those who you desire to follow is directly tied to your willingness to both serve and empower them.
Leadership speaker Ken Blanchard explains servant leadership as being composed of four personal attributes. Here’s my summary of those four, applied to law firm and lawyer leadership:
Heart – This first attribute is about the motivation of the leader. Is the leader more interested in serving others or serving himself or herself? Is your desire to lead the firm, or other lawyers in the firm, related to a desire to control others or maintain personal autonomy in your practice?
If you desire to truly understand your motives ask yourself a few of these basic inquiries:
How do you feel when others offer you correction or constructive criticism? Truly inside, how do you feel? A servant leader is not afraid of constructive criticism. If service is the goal, constructive criticism is always accepted as profitable to not only the leader, but the law firm.
How do you feel when others excel or gain success? When someone else who is a peer or subordinate is recognized? Are your really happy for them on the inside? The leader with a heart for service rejoices when those who are being led experience recognition and success.
So, the bottom line is to first examine your heart.
Head – The second attribute is about knowing what you are doing, and why you are doing it. Leaders of law firms need to understand the mission, vision and values of the organization. They must be able to describe them to not only those being led, but also those who might be led, such as prospective clients. You might ask yourself a few questions to see how you doing:
Do those in the law firm, or the group that I lead, share the same vision and values?
Is the actual brand that my law firm has in the communities we serve consistent with the brand that our firm says it has, or desires to have?
Hands – This third attribute is about what you do. Your motives can be pure, and you can express why you do what you do, but your actions speak louder than those words.
The inquiry here is: What are you doing, and are your actions consistent with what you say?
Habits – You can have a good heart, and all the plans you need, and even start performing, but unless you have discipline you will fail. Leaders need to have a plan to stay on course; otherwise the emergencies of today crowd out your opportunities to expand service to, and empowerment of, others. Ask yourself the following questions:
Even though I desire to lead others, how am I doing on leading myself?
Do I study leadership on a daily basis?
Just like the practice of law, do I practice leadership on a daily basis?
To the extent possible, have I surrounded myself with a leadership growth environment?
It is important to understand that this principle of servant leadership does not only apply to staff or lawyers within your firm, but equally to leadership of clients. With regard to clients, it’s not only about the results of the work that you are doing for them. They have certain basic requirements or expectations that they anticipate in that regard. The servant leader, however, is not only going to simply meet a client’s needs, but exceed them. The successful client leader of the future is not only going to be about results, but results and relationship. Results and relationship is the only way leaders are truly able to both serve and empower clients, which is what servant leadership of clients is all about.