This is a question I often ask people when I deliver Leadership and Management training. I find it prompts people to look again at the idea of leadership in their working lives. There is a common belief that you cannot lead unless you are in charge of the organisation in which you work – that you must be a senior partner, a managing director or the owner of a legal business. This is simply not true.

There are three key areas in which you can lead:

  1. You and your values

You must ask yourself: what is your reputational capital based upon? Are you known to be:

  • Approachable – friendly,
  • Trustworthy – a safe pair of hands,
  • Authentic – real and genuine,
  • Enthusiastic – positive attitude,
  • Confident and humble?

(Or are you known to be the opposite of any of these?)

As you can see these values have nothing to do with being in charge. They would be useful and effective qualities for anyone within a law firm.

Think about the values you hold and portray to your clients and colleagues. It is said that you become like the 5 people you most spend time with – who do you think those people are, and which qualities are you absorbing?

  1. Your knowledge and expertise

Whether you are the ‘go-to’ person in your office or not, you will invariably lead your clients through the legal landscape. They rely upon you and your legal knowledge and experience to help them resolve their problems.

  1. How you are with others

The third area is about how you connect with people – if you don’t like people it is going to be very difficult to lead them!

So how well do you know your colleagues or clients? How good a listener are you? Do you actually listen or are you just waiting for your opportunity to speak again? Worse, do you talk over other people? Sometimes colleagues or clients just want to be listened to.

If you think you are a good listener (and most lawyers tell me they are) –try an experiment. Next time you are listening – only use body language or single words to encourage the speaker to keep talking.  Then, when they have told you the whole story, repeat back to them what you have heard to let them know you heardthem. It also provides you with an opportunity to check that you did understand their actual meaning as well as the words they used.

Another way to increase your connection to clients, colleagues, and bosses is to do random acts of kindness. Why don’t you challenge your self to do this at least once a day so that it becomes a habit?

What else can you do?

If you are looking to expand your leadership skills, and you feel the current way in which you work does not give you the opportunity, then I would like to share with you this quote from John Adair (who is my favourite leadership author):

“In fact there is quite a lot an individual can do outside his/her organisation – in spite of it– to grow as a leader: for example community experience, reading & thinking on the subject and observing the good and not so goodleaders.”

For those reading this blog who are in charge, but who also want to lead, why not arrange for your staff to have this experience? Whether it is inside or outside of your organisation, this kind of development can help to promote the values you want to see in your business, investing in their progression and helping  you to enhance your legal practice.


For those who want to fast track their leadership skills, then I have a leadership-coaching package to support you on your journey. Contact me for a complimentary coffee and cake to discuss your objectives. See link for coaching benefits:


External:I am delivering a How to Lead, Influence and Motivateon the 7thNovember via MBL Seminars in Leeds click here for more details:,-Influence-_-Motivate—Embracing-Modern-Day-Challenges-in-the-Workplace/8837

For in-house lawyers–a short trip across the Pennines to Manchester allows you to join my course onLeading and Managing an In-house Legal Departmenton the 28thSeptember via BPP:

It would be great to see you there.

If you would like to discuss any of the content of this blog or bespoke leadership training programmes for Partners/Associates please contact me either by email, or telephone me on 07921540039. 


YCFL delivers strategic coaching, leadership, management and interpersonal skills training for the legal profession. Since 2003 Ann has trained nearly 7000 lawyers in leadership, management and interpersonal skills. Ann has also trained with the Coaching Academy and holds a H.N.L.P. certificate in coaching as well as being an N.L.P. Master Practitioner. She is a member of the Professional Speaking Association and Professional Speakers Academy.




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