Audacious Leadership – what’s holding your firm back?

Australian leaders spend many millions of dollars and hours every year developing their own leadership capability and that of their teams, yet as a nation we are undecided about what leadership style really works.

Why do we struggle with audacious leadership?

Part of the reason is that more traditional businesses resist standing up and standing out than those willing to lead with the positive audacity of learning new ways and be willing to get it wrong. Yes, making mistakes is hard when we are scrutinised for it. Yes, being a student and not being a master is even harder – especially when we are used to being known as an expert. And most of all, being committed to learning and exploring options takes time and as the clock ticks over 6 minutes it’s easy to default and use money as an excuse for not extending themselves ‘right now’.

The word on the street is that the legal industry feels this where it hurts most – the financial side of business. Largely traditional, risk averse and conservative, many firms seem stuck between the legacy of the past and breaking through to the future way of working. The additional problem is young talent is already thinking as futurists and wants to bring in new advances in communication and engagement. So perhaps it’s time for the traditionalists to shift slightly off the dance floor and onto the balcony and mentor future audacious leaders to ensure their firms remain in business and keep their staff before they become someone else’s.

However, easier said than done and my belief is that many people find it difficult to let go of things like hierarchy in favour of a more inclusive style of leadership – perhaps the fear of losing their foothold Perhaps people are largely unwilling to stretch their thinking and behaviour outside

the traditional or they don’t feel the industry or clients will support them and resist doing business with them.

As such they go with what has worked in the past and hope things will be OK. But hope is not a strategy. It is a four-letter word that often ends badly.

Herein lies a deeper problem.

Is new talent the answer?

Young talent coming into legal firms today do not want to simply hope they will have a career trajectory but rather strive to make their mark. No different from anyone else who aspired to grow their career, right? Even us back in the day… right?

One could say the traditional pecking order now is like a precarious deck of cards – one that may look strong to your clients or outside world but the foundations may not be so firm, as young talent take to their keyboards rather than the key boardrooms!

But before we shift off our seats a little in favour or upcoming talent, we need to ask if they have the capability to lead with an unwavering sense of purpose and as experienced leaders, how can we equip them with the competence to lead as audacious lawyers not just confident lawyers. That’s our role – irrespective of whatever our jobs are: we as audacious leaders must give them more than knowledge on the job and provide them with exceptional experiences not just explanations.

What’s the key to building audacious leaders?

The key to this is around mindset where no ambiguity exists in thought or behaviour, and we show our commitment to them and our clients. This mindset is around total focus and is resilient enough to withstand and work through criticism, complacency or external or internal influences that may try and sabotage our vision.

Audacious leaders must demonstrate through stronger negotiation, communication and influence techniques that their passion is not hot air, and their intent is purposeful not fanciful. We either get good or get going.

We are saying we need to stretch our capacity and capability outside the typical transactions we do every day.  We are saying we need to give voice to our passions, convictions and do it with courage even when we feel our most vulnerable.

We are saying that we constantly evolve, become more nimble, responsive and adaptive. And yes, we are also saying it’s not easy. Perhaps it never was. But one thing for sure, things have changed.

So have we, so have our clients and so have our staff.

Today and tomorrow’s leaders will lead best by being audacious. In the positive sense. In a timely sense, and in a way that is uniquely yours.