How to Be a Better Leader in 2022

Let’s face it, being a leader is difficult. The COVID-19 pandemic truly put law firm leaders’ boots to the fire. We had to quickly learn how to navigate from one crisis to the next while remaining upbeat and positive. From global shutdowns and stay-at-home orders to civil unrest to how to attract and retain employees during the Great Resignation, we reeled from one crisis to the next. Here are a few helpful tips on how you can be an Impactful, Compassionate, Inclusive, and Authentic leader while allowing time for self-care to recharge your energy levels in 2022.

Impactful Leader

The Cambridge Oxford Dictionary defines “impact” as “to have a strong effect or influence on a situation or person.” Although highly impactful leaders share several characteristics, one simple way to be an impactful leader is by being positive. Positive people are generally optimistic, enthusiastic, and have a strong sense of determination despite the problems they face. Additionally, having a positive attitude is contagious. Think about the last time you were feeling a little uncertain about a situation, and found yourself surrounded by a group of upbeat, lively, and energized individuals. The longer you spent surrounded by a group of energized people, you too began to feel more confident. Therefore, if you are a managing partner or in a leadership position at your firm, you should join the Law Practice Division Lawyer Leadership and Management Mastermind Series. This monthly Zoom roundtable provides thought-provoking and energizing conversations about some of the challenges of managing your law firm or practice group. I highly recommend signing up and learning how to make an impact on your firm.

Compassionate Leader

Impactful leaders genuinely care about their people and the work that they do. They put people first. They are compassionate. One easy way to become a more compassionate leader is by creating a firm culture and working environment that is nonjudgmental. According to University of Virginia Darden School of Business professor Sean Martin, “leaders inspire people to action.” Inspiring and encouraging members of the firm to communicate their thoughts and ideas about the firm operations creates an all-encompassing environment. Allowing all members of the firm to express concerns and ideas about the firm without passing judgment shows a softer, more compassionate leader. When members in leadership and management positions wholeheartedly and generously care, team members won’t mind going the extra mile or taking on more responsibilities. This level of caring goes beyond providing free lunch on Fridays. It’s about recognizing and rewarding excellence, as well as being mindful of the importance of growing while staying lean. It’s knowing where and how much to tighten their belts to keep the firm, and most importantly their employees, healthy and strong — without cutting off a major artery.

By investing in the right technology, a firm can reduce the number of staff members and simultaneously increase productivity and efficiency. If you would like to learn about all the great technology and software available to law firms, you should attend the ABA TECHSHOW 2022. TECHSHOW this year is scheduled to take place March 2-5, 2022, in Chicago, in-person and virtually. During this three-day event, you can learn how to use technology to improve workflows to simplify and perhaps systematize your practice to avoid employee burnout, or even worse, contributing to the “great resignation.” By investing in and using legal technology, you can provide solutions to allow members to work remotely in the same way they worked in the office. A compassionate leader must know how to attract, engage, and retain top talent during the employee shortage.

Inclusive Leadership

One way to attract and retain associates, as well as staff members, is by being an inclusive leader. An inclusive leader has a zero-tolerance for bias and discrimination. This requires being actively mindful each day to ensure that members of the firm, as well as their clients, are treated fairly and with respect. Engaging in a collaborative style of leadership can also help alleviate unintentional bias. Inclusive leaders recognize the importance of fostering a culture that provides equal opportunity for all. It is time to break the hierarchical lawyer v. non-lawyer ladder. It is time to create a team environment where all members of the firm enjoy collaborating to achieve client satisfaction and financial growth for the firm.

Authentic Leadership

An authentic leader is a leader with a genuine, honest heart. By leading with purpose and passion, an authentic leader is transparent in his or her motives and actions. Being transparent is not about sharing confidential financial information about the firm, it’s about clear and open communication and a strong sense of morality. Authentic leaders engage and collaborate with members of the firm when creating a future-focused strategic plan. All future-focused strategic plans include ways of improving job satisfaction and belongingness. Making sure your law firm policies and procedures are up to date is one way to showcase your authenticity. If you need a little help with updating your policies and procedures, be sure to grab the 7th Edition of the ABA LP Division Law Office Policies, Procedures, and Operations Manual. This book will take the stress out of creating a manual from scratch by providing downloadable templates for your use.

Finally, as we try to emerge from the pandemic, just remember that being a leader is stressful, and you should take time out to indulge in a little self-care. A simple way leaders can reduce stress is by listening to music.

According to the 2020 AARP Music and Brain Health Survey, music is not only enjoyable, but research also shows it can be good for your mind, body, and soul. Listening to music can minimize depression and anxiety. It is an easy way for leaders to practice daily self-care. Whether you are listening to binaural beats to help you focus by helping with increased cognitive flexibility, or smooth jazz while showering, “music has been shown to activate some of the broadest and most diverse networks of the brain.”

The next time you need a little jumpstart to energize your day, or perhaps unwind at the end of your day, create an iTunes Impactful Leader playlist. Here are eight songs from my Impactful Leader playlist:

  1. “The Eye of the Tiger,” Survivor.
  2. “The Man in the Mirror,” Michael Jackson.
  3. “Lose Yourself,” Eminem.
  4. “Humble and Kind,” Tim McGraw.
  5. “I Will Survive,” Gloria Gaynor.
  6. “Fighter,” Christina Aguilera.
  7. “You Can Make it if you Try,” Sly & the Family Stone; and
  8. “Lovely Day,” Bill Withers.

Finally, never lose your grip on your dreams. If you want to make your firm a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change. Remember you have one shot, one opportunity, and yes, you will have mountains to climb. Just remain a humble and kind leader, and you will survive. In the end, you are a fighter, and you will make it if you try. Just go for what you know, and it will be a lovely day.

About the Author

Cynthia Thomas is the founder and owner of PLMC Associates, a management consulting firm for law firms, and is the collections department manager for Frontline Managed Services. She also is a member of the editorial board of Law Practice magazine.

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