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The essential habits of a successful legal team leader

Successful managers are not born overnight; they develop a set of habits that contribute to their effectiveness and accomplishments. These habits, when consistently practiced, pave the way for exceptional leadership, efficient team management, and outstanding results. In this blog post, we will outline the fundamental behaviors of a great legal team leader and will link to future articles that dive deeper into each habit mentioned. This will build over time and serve as a Corporate Legal Coach team leadership guidebook for new and experienced leaders alike. Leadership is a skill that is often not part of the law school curriculum, but it becomes essential as we progress in our careers — whether at a law firm or in-house.

Continuous Learning and Adaptability:

Successful managers understand that the general business landscape and their specific team dynamic is ever-evolving. They prioritize continuous learning, staying updated on industry trends, and seeking new knowledge to enhance their managerial skills. They adapt their strategies and approaches based on emerging challenges, embracing change and inspiring their teams to do the same. A perfect example of a time when continuous learning and adaptability quickly became critical occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, leaders quickly found that continuing to do things the ways that they did them in the past, even if their past behaviors were very successful, was not going to work. Almost overnight, leaders needed to pivot and quickly develop remote leadership and team management skills.

Effective Communication:

Very few things are more important than effective communication. In fact, even the smartest lawyers will never be successful in-house leaders unless they master the art of communication. Clear and open communication is a cornerstone of successful management. Exceptional managers master the art of active listening, fostering an environment where team members feel heard and understood. They communicate expectations, provide constructive feedback, and ensure that information flows smoothly across the organization. Effective communication is essential as it builds trust, improves collaboration, and ensures everyone is aligned towards common goals. In my opinion, crucial elements of such communication involves regular one-on-one meetings and regular team meetings. Clarity and cadence of communication is incredibly important as is ensuring that each employee has a voice. Failing to establish these elements of Communication likely will ensure your failure as a leader – do not ignore them and, especially during hard times, never disappear or go silent.

Hiring and Developing High-Performing Teams:

Highly successful managers prioritize building strong and cohesive teams. They invest time and effort in recruiting top talent and developing their team members’ skills through mentorship and training opportunities. Like successful sports organizations that nail recruiting, trading and drafting, effective legal team managers know that their team will not become world-class without the right people. As important as hiring top talent is retaining top talent. Talent retention is a true test of leadership. In addition to, and a part of, retention is development. Everyone needs to be on a development path. Like a bike, people will not be balanced unless they are moving forward.

Delegation and Empowerment:

Successful managers understand the power of delegation. They trust their team members’ abilities and assign tasks according to individual strengths, empowering them to take ownership and contribute their best work. By delegating effectively, managers free up their own time to focus on strategic initiatives, while also fostering growth and development within the team. Check out this CLC article is you are struggling with effective delegation: Employee development: the secret key to successful delegation

Goal-Orientation and Accountability:

Highly successful managers set clear goals for their teams and themselves. They communicate these goals, break them down into actionable steps, and track progress regularly. Moreover, they lead by example, demonstrating accountability and taking responsibility for their actions. By instilling a sense of purpose and accountability, they inspire their teams to strive for excellence. Check out this CLC article on Hyper-Accountability and the Everything is My Fault mindset: Embracing Hyper-Accountability: Cultivating a Culture of Ownership

Emotional Intelligence and Empathy:

Exceptional managers possess high emotional intelligence, allowing them to understand and empathize with their team members. They recognize that each individual has unique strengths, weaknesses, and motivations. By demonstrating empathy and supporting their team members’ personal and professional growth, they foster a positive work environment and nurture strong relationships. Additionally, leaders realize that employees work to support their personal lives (not the other way around). We need to support balance and ensure that the jobs are complementary to employees’ personal lives — not conflicting.

Decisiveness and Problem-Solving:

Successful managers are skilled decision-makers. They gather relevant information, analyze it objectively, and make timely and well-informed decisions. Moreover, they excel at problem-solving, identifying root causes, and implementing effective solutions. Their ability to navigate challenges and make tough decisions instills confidence in their teams and drives progress. Leaders need to have confidence, which often can only be gained with skills, experience and time.

Prioritization:

Effective managers know how to prioritize tasks, set realistic deadlines, and delegate when necessary. By mastering time management, they create a balanced work environment that allows them to be productive, focused, and attentive to their team’s needs.

Conclusion:

Successful managers are not just defined by their titles but by the habits they cultivate. By adopting these habits, aspiring and current managers can enhance their leadership skills, promote team success, and contribute to the overall growth and achievement of their organizations. Remember, it is through consistent practice and dedication that these habits become ingrained, paving the way for long-term managerial success.

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