But how do you develop effective leaders within your law firm?
In his book, Linchpin, Seth Godin says: “Great bosses and world class organizations hire motivated people, set high expectations, and give their people room to be remarkable."
To develop good leaders, you must be a good leader yourself. Good leaders hire good people and let them take responsibility. Rather than hiring simply for skills and experience, good leaders know to hire for attitude, philosophy and a certain approach to the world. Hire the kinds of people who want to make a difference, and who have demonstrated the characteristics of leaders in the past. Most of those characteristics can't be shown on a resume.
To effectively hire for future leaders, you probably have to change your interview process to be focused more on the behaviors and characteristics you want to see in your people than simply for a job description or a certain number of years of experience in the field. Test for those skills during interviews by role playing, asking candidates to make presentations and asking open ended questions that require candidates to provide specific situational examples, rather than merely spouting their credentials or asserting that they have 'excellent trial skills' or 'management experience' - make them demonstrate it.
Make sure that everyone in your firm knows what is expected of them, not just the day to day tasks that they are expected to complete, but how they are to complete them. What is expected when interacting with clients, colleagues, and the court? How are employees expected to treat one another? To solve problems? Set the bar high and reward those who exceed it.
Since leadership requires difficult decisionmaking and visionary thinking, if leaders are to develop within your firm, you need to allow your people to make decisions, to take positive action to solve problems and to help clients, without having to always ask permission first. Good leaders take action, even if they are not sure that their actions will bear fruit, and each leader takes action in their own way. There is no leadership rulebook.
As Godin also says in Linchpin, “Telling people leadership is important is one thing. Showing them step by step precisely how to be a leader is impossible.…the reason that [leading] is valuable is precisely why I can’t tell you how to do it.”
Here are some other ways to develop leaders within your law firm:
- Act as a mentor to someone in your firm who shows leadership potential - and encourage others to do the same
- Allow your people to make mistakes and to learn from them
- Provide opportunity and responsibility to encourage growth
- Give constructive feedback and praise the behaviors and characteristics that make a leader
- Give leadership roles to staff
- Get people to volunteer for projects and give them full responsibility for them
- Keep people accountable - get them used to setting their own goals and evaluating their own progress
- Invest in them - show your support by continuing their education
- Foster an environment that rewards creativity and innovation - bad ideas lead to good ideas
- Don't micromanage
What do you think law firms can do to encourage and foster leadership?