“Ten soldiers wisely led will beat a hundred without a head.” – Euripides
Good leaders are made not born. If you have the desire and willpower, you can become an effective leader. Good leaders develop through a never-ending process of self-study, education, training, and experience.
Before we get started, let’s define leadership. Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent. Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. Thus, we at LegalPulp believe, “Leadership is not an occasional task. It’s a way of being.” We also believe that you are reading this, because you are a leader. Or at least want to be.!
Why are we the future lawyers called upon to be leaders?
We are sure that you would now have the question in your mind that why is a website on law talking about a psychological phenomena called leadership. There are many reasons but here are two that immediately flash to our mind as we present before you this write-up :
• Our professional oath - Once we become lawyers, we are called upon daily to move our clients and our causes forward in order to create a better world. We do that bit by bit, client by client, and with all of the tools and resources we have.
• Our analytical skills – What we learn in law school is that our intellectual currency is good not only for making a living but also serving our communities. We get asked for advice and counsel on a number of legal matters and we are expected to be able to provide direction. We are tapped to serve as civic leaders by local agencies. They ask us to lead task forces or serve on boards. We feel flattered to be asked but are afraid to serve. Don’t you want to come to the table prepared?
You have the chance to prepare and it can start in law school.
What are the skills of leadership?
Now that we know why we should be leaders, let us understand the skills that help become a leader.
Leader: You must have an honest understanding of who you are, what you know, and what you can do. Also, note that it is the followers, not the leader or someone else who determines if the leader is successful. If they do not trust or lack confidence in their leader, then they will be uninspired. To be successful you have to convince your followers, not yourself or your superiors, that you are worthy of being followed.
Followers: Different people require different styles of leadership. For example, a new hire requires more supervision than an experienced employee. A person who lacks motivation requires a different approach than one with a high degree of motivation. You must know your people! The fundamental starting point is having a good understanding of human nature, such as needs, emotions, and motivation. You must come to know your followers' be, know, and do attributes.
Communication: You lead through two-way communication. Much of it is nonverbal. For instance, when you “set the example,” that communicates to your people that you would not ask them to perform anything that you would not be willing to do. What and how you communicate either builds or harms the relationship between you and your followers.
Situation: All situations are different. What you do in one situation will not always work in another. You must use your judgment to decide the best course of action and the leadership style needed for each situation. For example, you may need to confront a follower of yours for inappropriate behavior, but if the confrontation is too late or too early, too harsh or too weak, then the results may prove ineffective.
How to develop these leadership skills in law school?
LegalPulp believes that the chance to be leader is all around you. Our three words of advice: “Take responsibility now.” If you participate on the mock trial or moot court team, with a community service project, or are a member of another student organization, go for the leadership position and run the organization. Yes, it will take additional work, it will be hard and it will test your patience. But if you have the opportunity to learn some leadership skills now in law school, you should take it. Trust us and take the advice from your peers and mentors, you will be glad that you did.
If you don’t know where to start, we suggest you to read the following blogs (after you finish reading this write-up thoroughly!), which will help you kick-start your leadership life:
• How to conduct effective meetings
• How to facilitate discussions
• How to plan your work by establishing S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals
• How to make presentations
How to demonstrate these skills to employers quietly and discreetly?
Don’t be quiet or discreet. Why should you be? If you take the time to learn and practice your leadership skills, you need to let a prospective employer know. In your cover letter and follow-up interview (I am optimistic for you), talk about how you have started to learn interpersonal skills (running an effective meeting) integrated goal setting into your student group work (S.M.A.R.T. goals) or are ready to do public speaking in the community (presentation skills). Impress them by telling them how these skills will transfer into a position with their organization.
There is no need to scream from the rooftops that you are the greatest, but highlight that the skills that you bring to the table are more than the average candidate. It will make you memorable. Isn’t that you want?
Key points which you cannot forget when you think of leadership:
• Leadership is a process; it is not a position.
• Practicing leadership requires the definition and creation of a vision or a solution that results in positive and ethical change.
• Leadership requires influence on followers.
It is important for us to remember what John Maxwell had to say on being a leader - “A leader is the one who knows the way, does the way, and shows the way.” Let the ship of leadership in you sail across everyone’s life because leadership is for everyone; it is for all law students and for all law professors and administrators. It is not the responsibility of a student body president or a future president of the Bar Association of India, but rather it is everyone’s responsibility to consider and acquire basic leadership skills.
Try to acquire these skills before its too late. All the best!