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Class Inspires Attorneys to Be Leaders Others Want to Follow

By John Murph

June 20, 2019


Attendees of the CLE leadership class that preceded the D.C. Bar’s 2019 Celebration of Leadership on June 11.

The popular maxim “Leaders are made, not born” lends professionals a sense of encouragement because it implies that with the proper training, support, and willingness to grow, anyone can develop leadership skills.

D.C. Bar members looking to hone those skills recently enjoyed the CLE course “Being a Leader Others Want to Follow,” held on June 11 as part of the D.C. Bar’s 2019 Celebration of Leadership. Led by Laurie Lyte, principal at Lytehouse Solutions LLC, the course gave a deep dive into leadership development and heightened anticipation of the Bar’s John Payton Leadership Academy, returning in 2020.

Before giving an overview of general leadership concepts in the workplace, Lyte argued that lawyers are natural leaders but not all realize it. “As lawyers, most of us end in leadership positions because technically we are good at what we do,” she said. “But that doesn’t always translate into having the [necessary] skills.”

During the one-hour seminar, Lyte outlined the differences between leaders and managers. Leaders create a vision, enjoy innovations, take risks, and build fruitful relationships. In turn, managers devise goals for their staff, are great organizers, control risks, and thrive at building systems and processes. “I always think of managers as being the ones who are creating the goals that follow the vision,” Lyte explained. She also pointed out that people can be leaders in many areas, not just in management.

Once an organization creates a stronger and more symbiotic relationship between managers and leaders, it will flourish. “The more you have [employers] who are taking control and responsibility of their own actions, the more you can get done within an organization. If you have a great leader at the top who has created a vision, then you can work with people to develop their skills so that everyone is moving in the right direction. It makes it easier for you as a manager, a leader, or a supervisor. And the organization becomes more efficient,” Lyte said.

She also noted that today’s work environment for lawyers is more challenging than before because of the increased amount and speed of information, higher expectations to be innovators, and greater fluidity within the roles of managing lawyers and staff. With those challenges in mind, to enhance workplace performance, Lyte reminded attendees to focus on the people. When staff feel as though they matter and are doing something important, the more creative and resourceful they become.

“[Companies] want capable people, and people want to feel like they are capable,” Lyte said. “But sometimes lawyers are not good at that. When we went to law school, the first thing [we heard was] that we didn’t know anything and that they were going to teach us how to think like lawyers. That’s great but we become very pessimistic because we learn to constantly look for the problems or the bad. That works well for us as lawyers, but that pessimism doesn’t always lead to the pathway of creating solutions.”

In order to sharpen one’s leadership skills, Lyte recommended that lawyers focus on their strengths and use them to manage their weaknesses; try to better manage and nourish their energy instead of time; learn how to better harness stress and use it as motivating fuel; and recognize what is outside of one’s control, such as the facts in cases. “Other people matter; that’s the golden rule,” Lyte said, focusing on managing lawyers who can set up associates for success.

Other techniques include learning how to rejuvenate energy levels during stressful moments; practicing deep, quiet thinking as a beneficial habit; recognizing that multitasking while responding to emails, phone calls, and texts distracts from productivity; engaging in better communications with others in your professional relationships; and helping others find their professional purpose.

When embracing these leadership-sharpening skills, Lyte said that no one will be able to master all of them at once. “Pick one [suggestion]. Then repeat it; get used to it so that you’ve created that good habit,” she said. “Being a leader means being open to growth. We are all a work in progress.”