More advice has been written about leadership than just about any other topic in the social sciences. My clients often ask me if I can distill this leadership wisdom into a very short synopsis that’s tailored to lawyers in senior leadership roles. I’ve resisted doing this because there are so many good books on leadership (although very few of them address leadership in law firms). If you want to dig into that literature, start with The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, which in my view is the best and most well written evidence-based summary of the practical principles of how to successfully lead others. For those with less time on their hands, here is my attempt to reduce what we know to a “one-pager”.

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This article first appeared on Tuesday May 17, 2016, on the Legal Executive Institute blog site, which is curated by Thomson Reuters.

One of my favorite leadership books is The Extraordinary Leader by John Zenger and Joe Folkman. In this book, the authors offer a number of findings from their own empirical research about what makes leaders effective, i.e., what makes constituents actual follow leaders.

One of their principal conclusions is that constituents follow leaders who consistently demonstrate three to five strengths, particularly when their mastery of those strengths is so formidable that observers rate them in the top 10%. For example, a leader who is a really crisp decision-maker, who also is very patient even under stress, and who is also a superb listener, will gain a large following.

Their research reveals an important corollary as well: When a leader consistently demonstrates this kind of mastery of strengths, constituents will overlook a leader’s weaknesses.


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This post was originally published at the Legal Executive Institute website, a ThomsonReuters site, on September 16, 2015:

In my conversations with law firm leaders, I am hearing more and more concern expressed about their partners failing to meet expectations. Here are some examples:


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This post was originally published at the Legal Executive Institute website, a ThomsonReuters site, on May 13, 2015:

The Great Place to Work Institute publishes an annual list of the “100 Best Places to Work”. This year, 20 of the companies on the list are in the “Professional Services Firms” category. And of these, five are law firms. This is the first time that law firms have represented fully a quarter of those spots, and from my conversations with law firm leaders, this is a trend that will only accelerate.

It’s smart business to transform your law firm from a mere conventional law practice to a great law firm in which to work. Benefits of doing so include:


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This post was originally published at the Legal Executive Institute website, a ThomsonReuters site, on April 15, 2015:

Are you a practicing lawyer who is transitioning into a leadership role? Whether it’s as a managing partner, practice group leader, office managing partner, or executive committee member—in all cases, to be effective as a leader, you need to make a significant shift in your mindset in several ways.

First, many lawyer-leaders default to the role of “manager”—making sure that important things get done in a regular and predictable way (timesheets are turned in, mentoring younger lawyers takes place, work is assigned rationally, etc.). There is certainly a need for management, but today the greater need in law firms is for leadership, i.e., determining what direction your constituents should go in, and then encouraging them to voluntarily go there. So in addition to thinking like a manager, you also have to think like a leader.


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