Leadercast 2017 – Great Content (but not enough of it)

I have attended Leadercast for many years. Occasionally I miss one due to a scheduling conflict, but I have been to most. I have attended live in Atlanta many times, have done the Executive Experience a few times, and have also attended a simulcast in Asheville two times. My observation is that though some content remains excellent, there is less of it. I am not exactly sure when the downturn occurred, but the fact that the event is ending one hour earlier in the day the last two years (end time of 330P instead of 430 PM), and the pullout of John Maxwell, (last appearing a few years ago), may have much to do with it. Pricing has escalated for the Executive Experience in Atlanta, though regular attendance is still affordable. It is my observation that as Leadercast has searched for new speakers to provide content, it seems that perhaps they have lost sight of the fact that not every great leader of an organization is a great speaker about, and teacher of, leadership. The sweet spot for Leadercast and other leadership conferences seems to be to find speakers who do both well. I am afraid that with fewer hours being filled, the odds are greater that one or two speakers who lack that special quality to teach and convey leadership content have a greater likelihood of affecting the overall impact and effectiveness of the event; the kind of impact that causes an attendee to say: “I can’t wait for next year”.

Having said the above, two regular speakers, Andy Stanley and Dr. Henry Cloud, as well as new (non-regular) speaker Dan Pink, provided excellent content. Though I am not sure I would have encouraged all of my law firm attorneys to attend the whole day, I wish that they had been there to hear these three excellent speakers, discussing their insights on leadership, and specifically on the topic of “Purpose”. Here is some of what learned:

Andy Stanley – His session was titled “Powered by Purpose”. As usual he started the day off with a practical and informative overview of the topic for the day. His view is that purpose is a means to an end. Folks tend to ask themselves: Why am I here? And, what is my purpose? He believes that until we are willing to be a means to an end, we will not have true purpose. He pointed out that he believes that those who simply devote themselves to themselves will have nothing but themselves to show for themselves. The point of purpose is to determine how you will serve others, and if your plan does not include service of others, it does not have true purpose. He left us with three action points:

  1. Look at everything we do through the lens of “means”.
  2. Pay attention to what stirs your heart in struggling to discover purpose.
  3. Surround yourself with “on purpose” people

Dan Pink went on to discuss the two types of purpose. The first is with a big “P”. It is that big, transcendent thing that an organization strives for to make a difference in the world. The second type is with a little “p”. It is all about making a contribution on a daily basis. Leaders should want their people to have both of these questions answered:

  1. Am I making a difference?
  2. Am I making a contribution?

Dan left us with two action points:

  1. As we go about what we do, ask the people who we work with more questions about why, instead of how? Be more informative to them about the why of what they are doing, instead of just the how.
  2. Dan made the point that great leaders are a sentence. He used examples such as Lincoln and Roosevelt, and described what sentence probably defined each of them. He challenged us with: What is your sentence?

Dr. Henry Cloud gave his usual excellent Leadercast presentation. The conference started with defining purpose and discussing how it is cultivated in an organization. Dr. Cloud spoke about accountability. He discussed what works when it comes to accountability, what does not, and why it does not.

He said that Purpose requires:

  1. Vision
  2. Engaged Talent
  3. Strategy
  4. Measurements and Accountability
  5. Fixing or Adapting to what is discovered in the process

The problem is that we are not all “10’s” as leaders in all of these things, and unless we have folks strong in all areas and hold them accountable, our organizations tend to look like the leader, and have the same strengths and weaknesses as the Leader has.

He stated that accountability in an organization is going to have certain characteristics:

  1. Clear agreed upon expectations
  2. When those expectations must be met (timing)
  3. How living up to expectations will be inspected
  4. Communication throughout the process

Leadership Lesson from the Past: Bernard Baruch – Profile in Leadership

I’m an avid reader of historical leadership. I have at least one book, if not more, on each President of the United States. I collect and read these books for one main purpose – to help further my leadership education and development. The story of each President – whether good or bad – contains numerous lessons in leadership.

This study of the Presidents has led me to discover a true treasure of leadership – persons who have worked with or otherwise influenced elected leaders, while never holding the highest office. To name just a few, I think of Seward’s involvement in the Lincoln Administration, the influence of Clementine Churchill during the periods that the United Kingdom was led by Winton Churchill and Alexander Hamilton’s influence during the infancy of the nation.

There is one “behind the scene” leader who I did not know that much about until very recently: Bernard Baruch. I just finished the 1957 book: Mr. Baruch: The Man, The Myth, The Eighty Years by Margaret L. Coit. Though it was written 60 years ago, I cannot recommend it highly enough; not only for its content, but for the excellent way it was written. Bernard Baruch made his fortune on Wall Street (he was the original “Wolf of Wall Street”) before turning to the political scene of the early 1900’s. He was a solid Democrat, but still called on by leaders of both parties, from Wilson through Eisenhower (with an apparent mid-term falling out with President Harry S. Truman). He never ran for office, and did not hold many formal positions in the various administrations, though the few he did hold were extremely important during difficult times in our country’s past. He was Chairman of the War Industries Board during World War I, and headed the American Delegation to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission after World War II. He was so much more than any position he ever held. He was truly a “trusted advisor”. Though Baruch was not a lawyer, that is a label every member of the legal profession desires, most believe they attain, but few actually do.

I thought it would be interesting to set out some of the passages from this very well written book which speak volume about Baruch and his leadership, and are lessons for leaders in law firms and other organizations:

From Page 673 – “He was great and he was small. He could be close fisted and perhaps the most generous man alive… He was naïve and sophisticated, vain on little things, and humble on great ones. He was ruthless and he was tender – and greater than the sum of his parts.”

Leadership Lesson – Leaders understand the setting/situation they are in and act accordingly, while never compromising on core principles and beliefs.

From Page 217 – “For, even to the novice observer, it was obvious that Bernard Baruch was by temperament a born diplomat, with a passion for getting people together and getting things done.

Leadership Lesson – Leaders focus on others first; they serve others and develop others, with the understanding of the importance of the team.

From Page 432 – “Baruch preferred power to responsibility. Roosevelt was going his own way. Sooner or later, if Baruch accepted office, a break would inevitably come, and any ‘break’ between him and the President would wreck his power and usefulness to the Administration. Baruch knew the rules of the game, and the first of these was loyalty. He urged McAdoo to support the President’s policies and, if he was dissatisfied, to take up the matter in private.”

Leadership Lesson – Leaders understand that it is not all about “me” but “we”, and that personal differences need to be aired out in private, and in the most productive way to achieve organizational success.

From Page 523 – “Yet they knew that his vanity never affected his judgment, that he was a financier who had never sold his country short. They knew him as a two-fisted fighting man whose strongest drive was what he spoke of least – patriotism, in which he could be ruthless.”

Leadership Lesson – Leaders are loyal, to both their team and the whole organization.

 

What Does True Leadership Really Involve

Leadership. We hear the concept all of the time, but what does it really mean? When you get appointed or elected to that huge position, such as managing partner of the law firm, or CEO of a company or legal organization, what does that really entail? What is being a leader really all about?

Over my years of management and leadership of my law firm, and other organizations I have had the opportunity to help lead, I have come to the conclusion that if you want to be a leader instead of just the holder of a position or title, there are several key characteristics or functions:

Envision – The first job of a leader is to envision the future, and to cast that vision to others. Where there is no vision, the firm will perish. That may not have been the belief of most law firm owners of the past; but the fact is that times have changed, and are continually changing, and law firms need to be operated like business organizations. The competitive environment requires visionary leadership.

Engage – Not only must a leader cast and sell a vision for the future to members, but those who hear about that vision need to be engaged by the leader. This involved three main actions:

  1. Equip – Leaders need to make sure that others in the organization are equipped with the tools they need to succeed. For a law firm leader this means not only providing the tools and support that each person needs, but to work to create a culture that that supports each member in his or her efforts on behalf of the firm.
  2. Empower – Leaders need to equip, and then get out of the way. They do this by empowering those on the team or the firm. There is a mix of authority, discipline and maintenance of established values of quality that a leader needs to reinforce in order to move the firm more in the direction of a 21st century team, instead of just a group of autonomous individual practitioners. This mix is the sweet spot where firm members feel supported and empowered.
  3. Encourage – Once those in the firm feel equipped and empowered, true engagement in the firm’s vision will be realized when the leader provides encouragement. This may be a simple private word of thanks or congratulations, or public acknowledgment of success, but it is an integral part of successful engagement.

Evaluate – This is a most difficult, but absolutely necessary, function of effective leadership. Leaders evaluate plans, they evaluate strategies, and they evaluate members on the team. They may evaluate team leaders, or they may evaluate the individual members within the organization, depending on the size of the group. They evaluate to not only punish or reward, but for the purpose of understanding existing firm culture, and supporting appropriate change.

Ensure Existence – Too many people in leadership positions focus quite heavily on the present; managing problems and assuring that the firm has resources to meet current payroll. These are obviously important functions that must be taken care of, however if “the present” is all on the shoulders of the leader, the future is neglected. It is a key duty of the leader to learn how to appropriately delegate so that there is time to plan and execute the future. Therefore every leader must assure that the future is brighter for the firm when he or she leaves the position, than when the leader took the position on.

As I wrote the above, I realized that in some of the above areas I have excelled, and in some I have fallen woefully short over the years (with much learning at the College of Hard Knocks). One thing I did realize however, is that regardless of how I have done in all of these areas, they are considerations for every leader to consider. I wish you well in your endeavor to be an effective servant leader of those in your firm.

“Lead Through Change” a Big Hit in Asheville, NC

Former Senators Tom Daschle and Bill Frist debate health care leadership issues

Former Senators Tom Daschle and Bill Frist debate health care leadership issues

John Maxwell receives the Mother Teresa Prize for Global Peace and Leadership at Lead Through Change in Asheville, NC

John Maxwell receives the Mother Teresa Prize for Global Peace and Leadership at Lead Through Change in Asheville, NC

Last month several members of my law firm had the opportunity to attend a new leadership program, “Lead Through Change” held in my hometown of Asheville, North Carolina. The focus of the program was leadership during the present time of enormous change affecting the health care industry. As a law firm that has many medical profession clients, we felt that we needed to be on the cutting edge of what the medical field is facing today. The speakers included two former Senators (Tom Daschle and Bill Frist), leadership expert John Maxwell, leaders of the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association, and local Mission Hospitals CEO, Dr. Ron Paulus. The event was a production of the Luminary Leadership Network, led by Bill Murdock, founder of our local Eblen Charities. I was so impressed with the content, and learned so much, that I thought I would share some of what I learned about leadership in this one day event focused on the health care industry.

Senator Daschle had some really interesting thoughts about the issues facing the healthcare industry, and why we continue to have such difficulties. He said that there are four key factors to future leadership in that industry: 1) Resiliency, 2) Innovation, 3) Collaboration and 4) Engagement. As he explained what these four factors meant to health care leadership, I thought that perhaps they also applied to the legal industry, which is also experiencing massive change.

Mission Hospitals CEO Ron Paulus gave a phenomenal talk on the difficulties he has experienced in times of change and how his leadership has developed as he has struggled through challenging times. He suggested two book resources for folks who are entrusted with the leadership of an organization; 1) Organizational Culture and Leadership by Edgar Schein, and 2) The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander. I immediately bought both of them online, and am currently reading the first.

The final speaker of the day was leadership guru John C. Maxwell. His basic laws of leadership apply to every discipline and industry.   He focused on the attitude of a leader while being challenged with change and uncertainty in the organization being led.

I believe the intent is to repeat his event in the future. I definitely recommend that you visit this site for further information: http://leadthroughchange.com/

Essential Qualities of an Effective Leader Part 3: Passion

To start, I must acknowledge that I incorrectly stated in my June 2014 blog post that “Mission” was the first essential quality of an effective leader. Actually, I meant to say “Passion”, of which Mission is an integral part. As most of my friends know, I was recently in an accident in downtown Chicago. I fell while walking over the Columbus Drive Bridge (which remains in dire need of repair). I was hurt pretty bad, and had to spend about 6 hours in the emergency room of Northwestern Hospital. I now use my experience when I speak about Passion. Though I was in some pain (I had a left hand sprain, four stitches in my chin, a broken bone in my right hand and a broken bone in my ear canal), I could not help but be impressed with the passion that I observed in just about everyone who worked in that emergency room. I believe that the passion I observed in the health care staff was directly related to the passion exemplified by their leader, who was the doctor primarily in charge of my care.   What I observed in that doctor, and what I have observed from other leaders over many years, is that there are really four qualities of a leader with passion. If you display these to followers, they will believe what you believe, and your passion will, in fact, be infectious:

  1. Mission – Every organization needs a mission, however, the mission of a passionate leader is so much more than just organizational mission. Here you ask a personal question: Does the leader know, and display, that the leader knows what he or she is doing and why it is being done, or is the leader simply serving a term in an “in-charge” position?
  2. Model – A truly passionate leader is not only going to have beliefs, goals and a reason for being, but will also be an example for others to follow.
  3. Message – A true leader has a truth, a story and a purpose that can be shared with others, one they can cling to and follow. An effective leader is going to be able to influence followers through the story of his or her life, as well as those of others.
  4. Mandate – This is not the same as mission. We hear much in politics about whether or not a politician has been given a “mandate” from a constituency to proceed in some predetermined manner selected by the politician.   The mandate of an effective leader, however, is a calling to serve others, and to not be concerned about the leader’s own well-being and success, but instead that of followers.

Truly effective leaders always have passion. Leaders with passion have a personal mission, are a model to followers, have a message to share, and have a mandate to serve.

 

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.

Five Things I Learned at Managing Partner Forum 2014

I had the opportunity to attend the Managing Partner Forum in Atlanta Georgia on Thursday May 8, 2014.  This event is the one event that I know of, held each year, where law firm managing and executive committee partners from all over the country come together and primarily learn from each other, and from experts, about leading and managing law firms.  The day starts with a keynote speaker, followed by a panel of experts who respond to real time electronic voting by attendees (who are responding to questions on issues of firm management, leadership and finance such as “What is your Firm’s revenue per lawyer compared to a year ago?” and “Do you think law firms should have a firm-wide strategic plan?”) . The remaining 3/4ths of the day is broken into segments referred to as MPIE’s (“Managing Partner Idea Exchanges”) – 20 to 25 managing members of firms sit around a table and discuss topics of interest and importance in management and leadership of law firms, facilitated by two or three law firm leadership experts. Kudos to my friend, and founder of Managing Partner Forum, John Remsen, for coming up with such a great learning experience for law firm leaders, and sustaining it over so many years. 

Given the high value of content during this one day of programming, I decided that this blog post should give you a tidbit of what I learned:

1.       Keynote speaker Tim Corcoran, President of the Legal Marketing Association began the day by discussing 5 obstacles to law firm success, indicating that the greatest obstacle is our own reluctance to embrace proven business principles.  He stated his belief that the reason for this is that lawyers continue to see the law as solely a profession, and not a business.

Tim discussed 5 more specific obstacles to law firm success. A comprehensive review of his whole keynote is beyond the scope of this blog post, but here is a short list:

     a.       Governance is an obstacle, where law firms allow all lawyers to be involved in management.  Leaders need to be allowed to lead!

     b.      Law firms do not understand clients and their needs.  Lawyers need to deliver what client’s want, at what they are willing to pay.

     c.        Law firm pricing needs to be rethought.  Discounting without rhyme or reason is a problem.  If you discount all the time, you send the signal that either you do not value your own work, or you know your client does not value your work.

     d.      Compensation plans continue to be a huge obstacle.  Most encourage turf building, as opposed to collaboration.

     e.      The typical formula for deriving profit simply encourages more time keepers and actually less profit.

Tim did not leave us hanging with just the bad news, but had a numerous suggestions as well – here are a few:

     a.       Adopt new operating models to law firm structure – there are other ways to succeed than what we currently use.  We need to look at what works in other businesses and professions and innovate.

     b.      Make client satisfaction your primary focus – make sure that all clients are “Firm” clients

     c.       Compensate for retention and long term profit – quit encouraging folks in the firm to focus merely on their own short term personal gain

2.       Firms need to do be more strategic in their hiring practices.  Cultural compatibility needs to be a priority, including: 1) structured hiring process and 2) psychological testing /personality testing. It makes sense that each party, employer and new hire, should be interested in assuring that they are a good match for each other.

3.       Succession planning, in all areas of law firm future planning is of utmost importance.  As a leader your job is to reduce uncertainty, and succession planning is all about reducing uncertainty of the future.

4.       The key to successfully adopting alternative fee arrangements in a law firm is client trust – including a belief by the client that the relationship is of utmost importance to the lawyer.

5.       Dr. Larry Richard, another expert helping in facilitation of the conference, pointed out that we should change the name of the position of a leader of a law firm to “Leading Partner” instead of “Managing Partner”.  Leaders need to delegate management tasks to managers instead of giving in to the temptation to micromanage. This is difficult because lawyer skill sets are more conducive to management than leadership.

For anyone in law firm leadership, I recommend that you make time for this annual event.

Use of Handheld Devices in Meetings

Moving Beyond the Charge of Rudeness to an Environment of Cooperation and Understanding

A few weeks ago, during the NCAA Basketball tournament, I heard an XM Radio interview (I cannot recall if it was on ESPN or some other station) of Rick Pitino, coach of Louisville Cardinals.  He was discussing his leadership style, specifically answering questions regarding the prevalence of use of handheld devices by young athletes, and the difficulty with discipline that is caused by constant use. Basically, he has a “no device” rule whenever one of his college basketball players is in his presence. No devices are allowed in the locker room, no devices are allowed during practice, no devices are allowed during team meetings, and no devices are allowed when the team has meals together.

I have to admit that until recently I was in agreement with Mr. Pitino when it came to my view on the use of hand held or portable devices during meetings , whether with clients, partners or other professionals.  For some time now, however, I have been making a concerted effort to observe the use of portable electronic devices by others in public settings. Though I hate to disagree with a basketball coach with such a great win loss record  (and I dread his entry into the ACC next year because of his great success ), my observation has led me to the conclusion that communication expectations in society have changed, and nowhere is this more true than in the practice of law. In the past, law firm leaders seem to have opted for solutions which appease those lawyers who are most averse to the use of personal devices in meetings. I propose that tendency should change.  

Client meetings and communications

As the leader of a law firm, your recommendations regarding use of technology should always focus on quality service when it comes to clients. Some clients come to meetings with tablet in hand, and would not expect anything different of legal counsel. These clients understand the importance of being connected, and expect you to be as well. They also appreciate that having a device with you does not mean you’re necessarily not paying attention, playing a game or checking personal emails every time you glance away. True, they want your attention at meetings they are paying for you to attend, but are not offended by your technology. In fact, a lack of personal technology availability can work to the detriment of a lawyer in a client meeting, since the presence of handheld devices is a sign of the availability of information.  In other cases however, some clients may be less technologically savvy.  The bottom line is that in order to meet and exceed client expectations it is important that lawyers know their clients well. It is incumbent upon law firm leaders that to include in firm training, sessions which  encourage firm members to know and understand their clients; their needs, expectations and desires when it comes to communication, which is an integral part of quality service.

Colleagues and firm meetings

Whether the use of technology is a help or hindrance comes up as an issue most often when considering the use of handheld devices, or their presence, at meetings; meetings of partners, firm attorneys, executive committee, Bar Association Meetings, etc. It was not so long ago that I was known to simply “flat out” prohibit handheld devices at partner meetings and retreats. I’ve come a long way in my thinking however. Even 10 years ago, very few professionals regularly brought handheld devices to meetings. I now do not only believe that it is only a majority of folks who do, but truly the exception is actually when someone does not have their handheld device at a meeting.

It is true that some folks may be using these devices to “goof off” instead of pay attention. My observation however is that the world has changed, and handheld devices now provide access, response and security. Regardless of where an attendee stands on the technology spectrum, all should understand that clients have expectations, and with changing lifestyle demands, productive firm members need the security of “connectedness” with their family at all times (especially those with young children).

Given the potential for distraction due to misuse, but considering the demands of a rapidly changing world, law firm leaders need to find solutions that work for all firm members. Members need to be open to have discussions about proper use during meetings, and the need to use discretion in only answering or responding to emails when it is a true client or family emergency or demand. Those with negative attitudes about the use of handheld devices during meetings (which usually includes at least a few dinosaurs who have held on as non-adapters) need to be involved in the discussion, and led to understand that limited/controlled use during meetings is not only acceptable, but encouraged when safety, security or client satisfaction is the concern.

The days of exclusive mandatory rules, procedures and penalties are over. Both the means and mode of communication have changed. Young and old alike are demanding and expecting collaborative, inclusive and understanding leadership. Firm leaders must find solutions that meet the needs of all stakeholders if they expect to retain valuable firm clients, as well as the best and brightest legal talent.

 

Leadership and the Nation’s Capitol

I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to experience, and learn about, leadership this past week.  On behalf of the ABA Law Practice Division, and as a member of a North Carolina delegation of bar leaders, I participated in ABA Day in Washington, DC.  As representative of the ABA and State Bar associations, participants visit with members of Congress to discuss with them pressing needs and concerns.  This year there were two major concerns: 1) funding for legal services (a brief synopsis of the ABA position can be found at:_ http://www.americanbar.org/calendar/aba-day/resources/lsc.html ) and 2) a provision of recently proposed tax reform legislation that would, if passed, force upon small professional associations, such as law firms, accrual based accounting (a brief synopsis of the ABA position can be found at: http://www.americanbar.org/calendar/aba-day/resources/vawa1.html ).  The North Carolina Bar delegation was fortunate enough to visit with both NC State Senators, as well as all but two of our members of Congress, and/or their staff.

One of our last visits was with Congressman George Holding of the 13th Congressional District of North Carolina.  Mr. Holding is a first term member of Congress, and before that served as a US Attorney.  After discussing with him the major initiatives of bar associations, we were able to ask Mr. Holding some of his views as a first term member of Congress; specifically his views about the contentious environment that seems to pervade all levels of our government. From that discussion, I learned (or confirmed) two leadership lessons:

First, now that the two party system seems to be a more competitive political environment, and because of the unbelievably fast rate of flow of information today, there is very little time for “leaders” to build the types of relationships necessary to truly lead each other, or the country.  Mr. Holding described for us the way members of Congress no longer have any time for each other.  Most time is spent away from Washington raising money or politicking.  When Congress is in session, Members leave (assuming they are not in session Friday) on Thursday evening, and return either very late Sunday, or on the first flight Monday morning.  I can attest to that fact, as I recall being on the last flight out from DC on a Sunday and crossing paths with my own Congressman in the airport. Even when at work in their offices in Washington, it sure seems like every minute is spent meeting with some constituent or other party asking for some type of influence or support. John Maxwell’s sixth law of leadership (Maxwell, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (1988)) is “The Law of Solid Ground: Trust is the Foundation of Leadership”.  It seems impossible to build the kind of trust needed to lead others if you are not spending any real time with them.  Apparently, in the past, members from both sides of the aisle had time to get to know each other and form the kinds of trust that help build the types of coalitions that transcend party lines.  It seems this has been lost.

For leaders of lawyers in law firms and clients, the lesson to learn is that we truly do have to spend time getting to know those whom we lead.  Leadership of others takes time, and the kind of trust that leads to success will only be earned over a long period of devoted time.

Second, listening to Mr. Holding as well as other members of Congress, it seems that the power of position has increasingly become a real hindrance to leadership in Washington, DC.  In 20th Century years gone by, it seemed as if there was a less competitive environment, because there was less likelihood that the Congressional makeup and control could change from election to election.  One party held Congress for many years, and status quo was maintained because congressional districts did not really change from D to R or R to D, very often.  This is simply no longer the case.  With position, or the possibility of position, comes the potential (or thirst) for power, and therefore the possibility of having the power of “forced” influence (or as some leadership guru’s call it, Level 1 Leadership).  True leadership, or what is known as “Servant Leadership”, is not about the power of position, or forced influence, but positive influence through service to, or for, others as the main incentive to lead.  We seem to have lost this in the present environment in Washington, DC.  Let’s hope that the environment will change in the future such that even with change in position, the focus (or passion) of our “leaders” will be on service, and not power.

The lesson for leaders of law firms and clients is to understand that your motives need to be pure.  If you are simply “leading” to have power or influence over others, then you may get your way, but you will not be leading.  Our passion as leaders in the profession needs to always be primarily focused on the service of others: partners, associates, staff, clients, other members of our profession and the communities in which we live and work.Bk3xMzyIMAA6vIS

Rep. Holding and Reed Head of Winston-Salem, NC

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NC Delegation and Congresswoman Renee Elmers of NC Con. District 2

Hagan and NC photo

NC Delegation and NC Senatator Kay Hagan

As a Leader of Clients and Lawyers – Do you Know How and When to Say No and Yes?

just_say_no[1]It might be one of the first words that most of learn to say as a child.  But for some reason it becomes so difficult to say…….. a simple NO.

As Lawyers, we like to tell people Yes.  We like to say yes to helping others in dealing with their legal issues, we like to say yes to providing aid to our local community, especially when non-lawyers need our special legal expertise to do good works.  We like to not make waves at the office, and say yes to our colleagues.

Saying “Yes” at the wrong time, and to the wrong opportunities may cause problems to your legal practice, leadership effectiveness and personal and business relationships.  It might also make it impossible, or very difficult to say yes to the right opportunities that come along.  Saying “No” is a skill.  Developing that skill is a key to the future of every leader/lawyer.

To learn more, see my recent article in Law Practice Magazine: The Power of “No”,  Volume 40, Number 2 (March /April 2014) at the following link:  http://bit.do/jGNM