Creativity. The Most Important Leadership Quality For Law Firm Partners.

Outside specific industry knowledge, shouldn’t a managing partner at a big law firm possess the qualities necessary to run a Fortune 500 Company as CEO?

If you agree, it’s likely because your realize the head of a company and the partner at a law firm often share the same job description. Whether CEO or equity partner, professionals in a decision-making position must both manage employee responsibilities and be the leader of teams.

An article titled, “What Does It Take to Develop Effective Law Firm Leaders?” in the ABA’s Law Practice TODAY, separates the task of management from leadership. According to the article, management is more focused on the short-term, typically one-year segments, which prioritizes cognitive skills and strategies.

The most effective manager is able to work using analytical, data-based, and rational decision-making. Equity and non-equity partners must learn to hone on his or her management style and effectiveness in order to succeed.

Leadership, however, is focused on the long-term, typically five plus years at the top. So, this applies primarily to the equity partners. “When the people you are leading are also owners of the firm, the need for buy-in is even greater,” write the article’s authors.

Successful leadership relies on more people-focused, inspirational, emotional, non-linear, and visceral decision-making.

It is this last trait—the one of leadership—that will be highlighted. Turns out, in the business world today, the number one, most important leadership quality for success is creativity.

A study by IBM , as reported by Austin Carr at Fast Company, used the largest known sample of one-on-one CEO interviews, with over 1,500 corporate heads and public sector leaders across 60 nations and 33 industries, to derive a poll on what drives corporate success.

The results are surprising.

The top three qualities were:

  1. Creativity;
  2. Integrity; and
  3. Global thinking.

Stunned by the list, Steven Tomasco, a manager at IBM Global Business Services, said to Austin Carr at Fast Company about the study findings:

“[It is] very interesting that coming off the worst economic conditions they’d ever seen, [CEOs] didn’t fall back on management discipline, existing best practices, rigor, or operations. In fact, they [did] just the opposite.”

When times are tough, of the two CEO and law firm partner requirements—managing and leading—the less tangible and more emotional qualities motivate best. When it comes to boosting profits, for example, will the damage to morale by firing a team member be worse than his cost to the company?

When change is necessary, will it emerge from adding a new, sterile, data-based system, or from increasing employee confidence and job satisfaction?

 When your company needs innovation to boost workplace efficiency, are you prepared to accept creative solutions?

You should be.

“Creative leaders are more prepared to break with the status quo of industry, enterprise and revenue models, and they are 81% more likely to rate innovation as a ‘crucial capability,'” dicates (logic and) the IBM study. 

Especially in a downturn economy, the key driver to great leadership is an ability to adapt, be creative, maintain your ethical standards, and generally react with the long-term in mind.


[Image via LitReview]


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