Manage Process…..Lead People
As someone who works closely with many law firms, both big and small, I am in no way surprised to see the results of the recent ALPMA survey that defines “Developing Organisational Leadership Capabilities” as one of the top 3 issues legal practices face in 2013 and beyond.
Every week I am involved in resolving unresourceful partnership behaviour and practice communication drama. The Australasian legal profession is going through a massive change created by constant economic uncertainty, technological advancement and generational differences.
Centuries old terminology and precedence create confusion due to an incongruence between what we truly want and how we language it. Lawyers traditionally have high intelligence and technical skill, however they are not always well equipped to deal with issues requiring social and emotional intelligence. Continuing legal education focuses primarily on technical aspects of law alongside a tiny smattering of what I believe are wrongly named “soft skills” training.
The major challenge I see in every firm I work with is what I call “Lawyers Becoming Leaders”. What is this mysterious thing called leadership? Is it the same as being a manager? In my opinion, the answer to that question is no. We should manage process, however we must lead people. This gives us a whole new set of skills and mindsets to conquer, of which, most lawyers will tell you there is a major lack of throughout their profession. Legal firm structural and remuneration options create a situation where technically successful lawyers, with outstanding billable hours results, are rewarded by being thrust into practice leadership roles alongside a self or externally driven expectation to maintain the billable hours and other responsibilities of the fee earner.
Time poor and over stressed executives often ask me “How am I supposed to be a leader when I am not real sure how to lead myself? “
So what is the answer to all of this? It’s time to embrace new ways of defining and developing our leadership capability.
Developing organisational leadership capability refers to any activity that improves the quality of leadership within your individual team members or your organisation as a whole.
Before we embark on this critical journey together, we must first make the differentiation between “leader” development and “leadership” development.
Leadership development focuses on the development of your organisational leadership as a process. Leader development focuses on the essential personal attributes of every leader, the way they need to think, feel and behave.
As we work together to create and maintain an effective leadership capability throughout the legal profession, let us first define what is important to consider as being essential ingredients of the leadership process.
The Leadership Process Model shown below was developed by Randall B. Dunham and Jon Pierce, and was published in their 1989 book “Managing.”
Figure 1 – The Leadership Process
The model shows the relationship between the four key factors that contribute to leadership success or failure.
Þ The Leaders: These are the people who take charge, and direct the group’s performance.
Þ Followers: These are the people who follow the leader’s directions on projects and actions.
Þ The Context: This is the situation in which the work is performed. For example, it may be just regular day to day, a specific project, or a more complex, long-term assignment. Context can also cover the physical environment, resources available, and events in the wider organisation.
Þ Outcomes: These are the results of the process. Outcomes could be reaching a particular objective, developing a division, or resolving a client service issue. They can also include things like improved trust and respect between the leader and followers, higher team engagement or succession plans.
Most importantly, this model highlights that leadership is a dynamic and ongoing process. Therefore, it’s important to be flexible depending on the context and outcomes, and to invest continually in your relationship with your followers.
Essentially, everything affects everything else. In a very tangible way, negative actions negatively affect future performance, and positive actions improve future performance.
So let’s take at look at the main ingredient in this process…. the leaders. If we truly want to tackle this problem in 2013 then our major focus must be on developing leaders who can in turn develop a process that develops more leaders.
Here is a simple 4-quadrant model we can use to achieve this:
- Evaluate the individual and organisational mindset, behavioural and skill gaps through quantitative and qualitative assessment.
- Engage everyone in their own and the organisational change process.
- Educate in areas including social and emotional intelligence and human behavioural change.
- Empower cultural change through an environment of accountability and continual improvement.
For a more detailed look into this model I have recorded a video that you can access by visiting http://peoplebuilders.net.au/changing-mindsets-and-behaviour
Remember, we must manage process and lead people. Organisations that embrace this belief, and build a leadership culture around it, will set themselves up to grow into a firm that not only provides outstanding legal services to their clients…..they develop the leaders of the profession for the future.
Have a great week…..you deserve it!
Grant Herbert – The People Builder
Practice Behaviour Expert
Note: This article was written by me for the Australasian Legal Practice Management Association