The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born – that there is a genetic factor to leadership. This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born. – Warren G. Bennis
There is simply no single factor that has a greater impact on the success or failure of a business than the quality of its leadership. During this period of dramatic change in the legal services industry a well defined means of developing effective leadership is a must.
First, to debunk a myth – effective leaders are not born, they are made. Much has been suggested about “natural born leaders” and there is no substance to the suggestion. This should be good news to members of law firms. With sufficient desire, dedication and effort, effective leaders are developed.
There are three primary steps to creating effective law firm leaders.
- Identify interested lawyers. Routinely engage members of the firm including junior associates to determine who has interest in functioning in a leadership capacity.
- Develop the capability. Once identified, find opportunities to develop their leadership experience and knowledge. Opportunities include:
- Assign leadership positions,
- Provide leadership assignments,
- Connect the leader to be with a mentor (inside or out of the firm) and
- Direct them to educational programs intended to develop knowledge and build a network of other emerging leaders.
- Obtain feedback. All effective leaders are consciously or unconsciously committed to learning. They strive to become better leaders. Nothing provides a stronger learning experience than lessons learned on the job. A formal system of routine feedback, from all applicable personnel, provides an opportunity for that learning.
Maintaining an appropriate sized group of emerging leaders is critical to law firm success. Prudent firms proactively develop that leadership capability.
What is your firm doing to prepare tomorrow’s leaders?