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.

ABA Debates Model Regulatory Objectives for Provision of Legal Services

I was a proponent of a resolution in the ABA House of Delegates regarding establishment of regulatory objectives for courts to use in regulation of non-lawyer providers of legal service. As you may know, some legal service providers are not lawyers, and many of these services are provided over the internet. On a daily basis, these services are provided to the public without any regulation. Lawyers are regulated, and the public is protected. Non-lawyer providers are not regulated, and the public is not protected. The debate was between those in the House of Delegates who believed the ABA should lead the discussion in how to regulate these non-lawyers, and those who believed the ABA should instead enforce existing rules to keep non-lawyers from providing legal services at all.

Here are the comments I prepared for presentation in the ABA House of Delegates (that I did not get to present due to a motion to cut off debate and call for the question):

Fact – non-lawyers are providing legal services to members of the public. Those of you who came up with me through YLD in the 90’s remember two very controversial debates on germaneness. Defeated proponents of those resolutions came away feeling that just about anything and everything is germane, and we have multitudes of resolutions over the past 20 years, that most are proud of, to prove it. Based on my stated fact, I can only conclude that opponents have finally found something that’s not germane. Let the regulators deal with it themselves. It’s not the concern of the American Bar Association. We’re not going to help you come up with guidelines to help you should you decide to regulate legal services not being provided by lawyers. We will help regulators and legislators or “urge” them on every other issue under the sun, but not this one.

Collectively, leaders in our profession must be engaged in the conversation regarding changes occurring in legal services delivery. This resolution is a great step in doing so. It provides guidance, and perhaps also indicates that we are not being choked by sand. Some may fear a different slippery slope than I do. What I fear is a slope created by recent unfair and inaccurate, national publicity that possibly led viewers to wrongly conclude that we cannot, or will not, regulate ourselves. It is a slope of increased grade, when the press, viewing this present debate, and assuming we do not pass it, portrays us as turf protectors. The end of the slope may be the conclusion that we are no longer worthy to lead discussions on the future of legal services delivery.

When I speak about what lawyer leadership needs to look like in the future, whether leadership of firms, clients or society, I talk about three main areas of emphasis…greater lawyer resiliency, practice innovation and professional engagement. It is in this area of professional engagement that I have greatest concern. I believe that if we do not pass the resolution, the ability of the ABA to be professionally engaged in the issue of regulation of non-lawyer provision of legal services, which is obviously a reality whether or not we acknowledge it, is in jeopardy.

Lawyer leaders will best be able to lead this discussion, and influence others, if those we desire to lead trust us to do so. Trust after all is what leadership is all about. What looks like self-interest will not foster the kind of trust necessary for our profession to continue to lead the discussion. There are certainly good intentions on the part of those in our profession who desire to protect the public through ways of the past. Regardless, times are changing, and the public craves our leadership. It is the duty of lawyer leaders to transition our efforts away from yesterday’s assumptions, and to collectively take a greater role in what the present, and a future, with non-licensed legal service providers should look like – making sure that the public is protected, even when society, perhaps over our desires or recommendations, allows non-lawyers to provide legal services.

So I wonder: Are we ready to lead through this change that is already upon us?

Here is the text of the Resolution as approved:

RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association adopts the ABA Model Regulatory Objectives 1 for the Provision of Legal Services, dated February,    2016.

ABA Model Regulatory Objectives for the Provision of Legal Service

A. Protection of the public

B. Advancement of the administration of justice and the rule of law

C. Meaningful access to justice and information about the law, legal issues, and the civil and criminal justice systems

D. Transparency regarding the nature and scope of legal services to be provided, the credentials of those who provide them, and the availability of regulatory protections

E. Delivery of affordable and accessible legal services

F. Efficient, competent, and ethical delivery of legal services

G. Protection of privileged and confidential information

H. Independence of professional judgment

I. Accessible civil remedies for negligence and breach of other duties owed, and 16 disciplinary sanctions for misconduct, and advancement of appropriate preventive or wellness programs.

J. Diversity and inclusion among legal services providers and freedom from discrimination for those receiving legal services and in the justice system

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges that each state’s highest court, and those of each territory and tribe, be guided by the ABA Model Regulatory Objectives for the Provision of Legal Services when they assess the court’s existing regulatory framework and any other regulations they may choose to develop concerning non-traditional legal service providers.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That nothing contained in this Resolution abrogates in any manner existing ABA policy prohibiting non lawyer ownership of law firms or the core values adopted by the House of Delegates.

“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

 

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.

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

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NC Delegation and NC Senatator Kay Hagan