Understanding leadership models
Clients sometimes ask me about the leadership models or approaches that we suggest for creating an effective leadership development intervention. As a trainer and an executive coach, rather than pointing them towards a specific theory or a model which is ‘good in every season’, I prefer to explore some key questions with them: answers to which can give us some hints on what is happening in their firm and what (explicit or implicit) leadership models are already being used and influencing its performance.
We address questions like:
- Who is seen by others as a leader in the organisation? What contributes to this?
- What qualities or skills do these people express? What behaviours do they reward or criticise?
- What is the impact of the way the leaders are managing individuals and teams today on organisational performance and climate? How does it happen?
Answers to these questions may yield precious information regarding the leadership culture and styles in a law firm.
Understanding how a firm sees and recognizes leadership today is also important for another reason: developing leadership means building on what exists and leveraging on strengths.
Facing changes in leadership culture can raise resistance, especially in moments of organisational stress or during tough transitions – i.e. when a change in leadership approach and performance is often most required (!). Some people may feel personally questioned, while others may just be concerned about changing something that has always worked well.
Identifying behaviours and attitudes that have led to success in the past shows that the firm has already demonstrated the capability to flourish. Moreover, appreciating the past rationales of winning leadership behaviours is an important starting point in understanding the culture and values of a system and in creating a sense of mutual acknowledgement and trust. These are both basic elements in starting up a shared conversation to identify which behaviours can still be beneficial and which might not be useful anymore.
Defining success factors and envisioning future leadership
Looking to the future, one of the main challenges for people in a leadership position is that they are expected to be a role model in embodying the attitudes and values they want to see in the firm. Often leaders, even when feeling the urgency to change, have a clear idea of what they do not want to see any more – but a rather more ‘general’ or vague idea of the specific actions and attitudes they do want to see in the firm in the future. During a process of cultural change, the reasons for change must translate to a detailed and specific vision in order for that change to be effectively communicated, promoted and understood.
With this in mind, we often engage in a further exploration, covering the following questions:
- What are the main strategic goals of the firm today and in the future? What processes/projects will be key to contribute to its success? What are its key performance indicators (KPIs)?
- How should Partners, Associates, teams and structures operate in order to maximize the results the firm wants to see? What leadership behaviours and attitudes would facilitate them to do so?
- What competencies should a firm’s Partners demonstrate in order to effectively enact these behaviours? What attitudes, beliefs and values would support and sustain these behaviours in time?
In stimulating these kinds of conversations, the goal is to co-create with our clients the basis for an intervention that is fully aligned with the goals and strategies of the firm and also fully integrated with its culture and history. This sets a solid base for an intervention that can add tangible value and provide concrete return on investment, with a rationale that can be easily seen and understood by every member of the organization. This brings significant impact on trust in the process and motivation to change.
For more information, or to discuss your own development, please get in touch.