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 2: Trust

Trust is a critical quality of effective leadership.  I recently wrote a column for the LP Magazine Managing Column, titled: “Old Fashioned CRM: The Importance of Trust”.  The column discusses three critical factors in gaining, keeping and even rebuilding trust: 1. Living a consistent life, including both being truthful and keeping promises you make, 2. Being transparent in your relationships, and 3. Being generous.  These three factors are critical in relationships with those you work for, those who work for you, those who you work with, and those who hire you to work for them.  You can read my recent column at the following link:

http://www.americanbar.org/publications/law_practice_magazine/2014/july-august/managing.html

 

What I learned at Leadercast 2014

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   Simon Sinek

 

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Bishop Desmond Tutu

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Leadercast is an event held in Atlanta, Georgia each spring. It is simulcast live to locations all over the world (and this year the portion with Bishop Desmond Tutu was simulcast back to Atlanta from South Africa).  Unless I have an ABA meeting to attend during the week of Leadercast, I attend the live event. Over the years I have met several of the leadership experts that I count as mentors (even though I have only, very briefly, personally met two or three of them, much of my leadership learning has come from study of resources they have created).  The event was held on May 9th 2014.  I highly recommend this event to anyone interested in “lifting the lid” on their leadership (i.e. developing their leadership skills).  You can find out more about the event at www.leadercast.com. The belief of Leadercast is that leading and being led by people who inspire and enlighten us, gives us strength and allows us to grow. Leadercast was built on a belief that the world needs better leaders—leaders worth following.  For lawyer friends that follow me for leadership advice, remember that leadership principles apply not only to the non-legal world, but to the leadership of our profession as well; leadership of other lawyers, leadership of law firms and leadership of clients.

Here are a few tidbits of what I learned at Leadercast this year:

Andy Stanley, a local pastor from Atlanta opened the day up (as he has done several times).  He truly is an expert on organizational visioning and leadership.  He shared the theme of the day with us, which was: Becoming a ‘Beyond You” Leader. He taught that being a Beyond You leader is about fearlessly and selflessly empowering others to lead – those by our side, as well as those coming up behind us.  Stanley taught that the value of our lives is measured in how much we give away.  He used the example of a funeral and what is honored or remembered about a deceased.  It is usually not how much a person made, but instead generosity and selfless acts of kindness.  In life we celebrate generosity, but tend to envy accumulation.  

Dr. Henry Cloud, a clinical psychologist and business consultant, furthered the topic of Beyond You Leadership.  Most people are control freaks.  Being a “Beyond You” leader, one who achieves both results and relationships, is about three things to understand: 1) that you will only really understand those you desire to lead when they understand that you understand them, 2) that there has to be something in you, some motivation or reason for leading, which is beyond you, and 3) that as leader we must be willing to give up control. 

Award winning author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell, as he is famous for, made his leadership point by telling a story.  He told the story of a leader in Northern Ireland after World War II.  The story is beyond this blog, but the point he made was that followers will only follow rules, laws or policies of a leader when they see the leadership of the leader as legitimate.  To be viewed as legitimate, followers must feel: 1) respect – the kind where they feel that leadership respects them as persons, 2) fairness – that leaders do not play favoritism but treat every individual fairly, and 3) reliability- that leaders are  not arbitrary in their decision making.

Leadership Expert and Best Selling Author Simon Sinek spoke to the attendees about the environment that we create as leaders.  He mentioned that with so much uncertainty in the world the one area where leaders have some control is the internal environment of the organization.  He called it the “Circle of Certainty”. We must on a daily basis work to make the environment in our organizations positive.  We must make progress on a daily basis.  He used (as does many a leadership speaker) Southwest Airlines as an example.  That company always comes up in studies as one of the best places to work.  Is it really because they hire better, happier people?  Sinek says that it is because of the environment the people are in – one created by great leaders who understand that environment is crucial.   

These were just four of many speakers throughout a full day.  Other speakers included Bishop Desmond Tutu, Former First Lady Laura Bush, former advertising sales executive and author, Laura Schroff, screenwriter and producer Randall Wallace and current CEO of SAP (the world’s leading producer of software) Bill McDermott.

 

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