Definitely Mabey

Law firm style leadership... same bus, different seat

The art of leadership (not a science for sure) continues to be a well-documented topic across all industry segments, but like most critical success factors there is no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all answer. The leadership traits required to successfully lead a mechanized, goods-oriented entity are different in certain aspects than those required in a professional service industry.

Stephen Mabey Author


While different folks will point to different challenges that are causing firms to implode, stagnate, or at least not progress, I believe it is as simple as a lack of commitment to the firm's direction. In the book When Professionals Have to Lead: A New Model for High Performance, the authors Thomas J. Delong, John J. Gabarro, and Robert J. Lees articulate it best by pointing out that:

“professionals have an innate need to be involved and included. They want to be heard. Unfortunately, a sense of alienation exists among firm professionals at all levels who feel the firm has changed and that the current culture and leadership has left them out; many solid performers who are not the star players at a firm often feel as if their contributions are being undervalued.

When professionals feel excluded—or that no efforts are made to solicit their ideas and objections—they feel alienated and fail to focus on the task at hand. Many will pull away from other professionals and become cynical. Over time, some professionals may actually sabotage firm goals if they do not feel committed to the desired outcomes. Gaining commitment increases the odds that people will work harder and more creatively to move a firm, practice, or project in the desired direction. In the face of increased financial frustration on the part of lawyers, unmet needs, lack of shared vision, jadedness with what they do, and general poor morale finding the right leadership style for a firm has taken on increased significance.”

The style of leadership that will be most successful will depend on the environment in which the leading is being attempted. There are numerous leadership styles and variations that have been identified or labelled in modern literature with six of the more prominent ones being:

The rest of this article is available in Stephen Mabey's new Book

Book Cover - Leading and Managing a Sustainable Law Firm - Tactics & Strategies for a Rapidly Changing Profession by Stephen Mabey

Available for purchase on BookBaby.



Until next month's column, remember as former U.S. president Ronald Reagan is attributed as having once said:

"The greatest leader is not the one who does the greatest things. The greatest leader is the one who gets the people to do the greatest things.”

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First Published in Canadian Lawyer July 2012. Copyright © Applied Strategies Inc.

Legal Strategy Consultant