Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Leading the Modern Firm

In my last post, I offered a manifesto for the modern law firm. I have received quite a few comments about this posting which have, in general, been positive. Since writing that post, I have been thinking about Leadership - partly, of course, because of the forthcoming General Election in which the main parties are already trying convince us to select them to Lead the country for the next few years.

Rob Goffee & Gareth Jones have a wonderful book entitled "Why Should Anyone Be Led By You" - I encourage you to read it. I wanted, however, to try to distill some principles of leadership and so I offer the list below condensed from the main writers on the subject of Leadership.

Leadership Requirements

  1. Be Self Aware. Leaders must know their weaknesses and must strive to improve their own skills. Study, take classes, meet with other leaders, reflect.
  2. Be an Example. As the organisation's Leader, you must be an exemplar of everything it stands for. Not only must they hear you saying what the firm must be, they must see you acting in the appropriate manner.
  3. Know your People. You cannot Lead people you do not know and who do not know you. In large organisations it is, of course, almost impossible for you to know every one of your thousands of employees. Take the time, however, to know as many as you can and to speak with even more. Encourage your managers to know their staff. Be available to as many of your staff as possible.
  4. Pass on Information. Leadership is about communicating. By explaining your plans you will be able to lead people forward rather than having to push them reluctantly from the back.
  5. Be Responsible. Leaders will search out responsibility and should not hesitate to take responsibility for their actions. Encourage responsibility in the people you lead. Watch your managers explaining the strategy and the plan - that way you can be sure that they understand it thoroughly. Be as quick to take responsibility for the mess as you would be to take it for the success.
  6. Make Decisions. We never have enough information to make a decision and any decision making process could probably be improved with more time and more data. Given. Decisions must be made, however, and the Leader must be able to make quality decisions in difficult circumstances. Be confident in your decision making - that might be enough to make it the right decision. Admit, however, when the decision is the wrong one or when the right decision has unfortunate consequences.
Leadership is difficult and every Leader is going to make a mess of things at some point. Admit your errors, reflect on the changes required, communicate with the management team, make the necessary changes and carry on. Remember too - the lessons learnt last year worked last year. There will be a whole new bunch of lessons to learn in order that you are an effective Leader this year too.

Every kind of firm - from a law firm to a charity - needs a good Leader. Leadership needs to be practiced and its skills honed.

But then the good, self aware, Leader will know that!

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