I love it when lawyers approach me to help them excel at work. A popular theme among my mid-level clients these days is leadership presence. It can be challenging to suddenly be expected to take on more responsibility or lead a team after years of grinding out assignments.
That’s why I like to look at leadership as more than just a title. The ability to influence and motivate others is a beneficial skill at every stage of a lawyer’s career. Even a law student or junior lawyer can demonstrate a leadership mindset!
One client I’m currently working with is struggling to find her voice at her new place of employment. Natsai (name changed) has been performing so well that the VP is publicly praising her work and grooming her for a leadership role. What’s the problem you ask? A few of Natsai’s colleagues appear to be threatened by this display and are seeking to undermine her work. Have you been here before?
Natsai wants to work on her communication skills so that she can navigate these tricky situations. The topic of fear often comes up: her own fear and the perceived fear of others. Natsai wants to fit in, so she finds herself doing and saying things that are inauthentic. For example, during a conversation with one of the people seeking to undermine her, Natsai apologized for something that she wasn’t sorry for. Have you been here before?
When Natsai and I deconstructed that exchange to understand what happened and how things could have gone differently, Natsai realized that she could have benefited from slowing down the conversation to gain more information about the person’s underlying fears. Instead of assuming that the person had a problem with Natsai’s approach (and then apologizing for it), Natsai sees that she could have simply asked “I’m curious, what are your concerns?”, or “are you concerned about something?”
Natsai loves the humility and courage model I shared with her. She sees her biggest growth goal as being more curious (as opposed to being on the defense) during contentious conversations. She is finding it easier to be more courageous in speaking her mind because she knows that she is taking the time to gather all the necessary information before responding. She’s also deciphering when to be downright bold in situations of gender bias. Have you been here before?
How are you cultivating a leadership presence in your current role?
Let’s talk if you’re looking to develop your own leadership style!