Lead…More So Now Than Ever Before…

Napoleon Bonaparte said: “A leader is a dealer in hope.”   Now – more so perhaps than ever before in living memory – with the spectre of dark economic days lying ahead – you need to be a leader of your firm.

Of course, you are the person in charge of your future.  But more importantly, your staff and your clients will be looking for you to take the lead and demonstrate that you have planned where you are going.  They will be looking to you to be the light that shows them the right path to take in these confusing times.

Your clients will be coming to you for much the same reasons.  They are also going through difficult times and they are looking to you for trust, assurance and vision.

Trust in your staff to achieve the goals that you set out for them – but be the one who knows what the game plan is.  Bring people into the solution.  Set daily, weekly and annual goals for yourself and hold yourself accountable for your actions (or inaction, as the case may be).

Draw people into your vision and keep describing where everyone is headed.  Most importantly, hold yourself to a higher standard than you hold anyone else.  The staff will recognize this and appreciate it.

Take a few moments of time and read some great inspirational books that deal with professionalism and leadership, such as David Maister’s True Professionalism:

The problem, clearly, is not in figuring out what to do. Rather, the problem is to find the strength and courage to do what we know to be right.

Leadership is a learned art – read, watch others and learn from their example.  Mostly though, set an example – this is needed more so now than ever before.


  1. That quote from Napoleon sounds like a very modern sentiment. Do you have a reliable attribution?

    I think far fewer people actually ‘know what’s right’ or have ‘vision’ than the consultants who write this sort of advice pretend. Given all the speculation on the future of the legal profession, lots of lawyers will not have a clear idea where to ‘lead’ their firms.

    So it’s fine to say that the leader should have vision and the courage to do what’s right. Idea generation is hard, and once one has generated some ideas, or found some among the writings of consultants and seers, figuring out which of the contradictory mass are worth trying to implement is harder.

  2. John:

    First thanks for the comments.

    Second, there are many sites that attribute the quote to Napoleon – here is one from QuotationsBook where the attribution has been added by the staff:


    Having led many strategic retreats for law firms, I think there is far more cause for optimism that perhaps you give credit. A good outside consultant can help in at least two dimensions:

    Through discussion, a consultant can help give shape to and appreciation of the outside forces that may be at work that present either a threat or an opportunity for the firm.

    The second is to focus internally and again, using discussion techniques, focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the firm that would allow or hinder it to capitalize on the opportunities and minimize the threats.

    There are other tools besides a SWOT analysis discussion – but leaders of law firms can use such techniques to
    ‘know’ where to lead their firms.

    Management is an art, not a science. It takes thought, reflection and consensus. However, make no mistake, good management can have a profound impact on an organization (bad management can as well but that isn’t particularly helpful to our discussion).

    But good management is built on having a clear vision of where to take an organization. By using strategic decision tools, a managing partner can come to have a clear idea of where he or she should take the firm.

    In my experience, the idea generation part is oftentimes the easiest. The hardest is the change management part – people are resistant to change, even if it is in their best interests.


    Dave Bilinsky

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