Leading with Integrity
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
by: Lauren Thurmond, Esq., Hutchens Law Firm

Section: WILLed Q3 2016

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Each person has to develop her own leadership style based on her personal strengths. In my opinion, the key principle for any leader to remember is that leadership is an honor and a privilege, and disciplined leadership is doing the right thing no matter how difficult that may be.
There are many important characteristics of a respected leader. In my practice, being a person that my staff, colleagues, and clients can count on every-time, no exceptions, to provide a thoughtful response or analysis of the issue at hand has been the most crucial part of my success as a leader. It takes time to earn and build credibility and trust, and an effective leader must lead with integrity. People will not follow someone they do not respect.
An important skill I have learned is to be a good listener. This includes seeking the ideas and input of others, and making sure people know your door is always open. To be successful in our industry, you have to be able to anticipate problems and respond to the ever-changing landscape. Your staff, colleagues, and clients may see issues or trends before you do, and you want to be the first person they call.
Other things that I have found to be essential in earning the respect of my teams and colleagues are the following:
1. Know yourself. Be honest with yourself about what you are and are not good at. You must continue to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses throughout your career. Seek feedback from others and be willing to make improvements in the way you relate and communicate with others where necessary. Your leadership style will continue to evolve throughout your career based on your experiences.
2. Lead by example. This is an age old saying but it is true. If you hustle, are quick to follow up, and are always striving for superior performance, your team will do the same.
3. Be crystal clear in communicating your expectations to the people you manage. This will eliminate the frustration that comes from poor communication.
4. Be considerate. Respect those you manage for who they are. You need people who are different than you around you to challenge your ideas and bring different perspectives to your discussions.
5. Provide regular, honest feedback to the people you manage; both positive and negative.
People want to know where they stand. This is important in continuing the development of the people around you. You have heard that your people are your most valuable asset and I truly believe that.
6. Recognize greatness and provide those people with the opportunity to excel based on their performance and contribution to your organization. If you fail to do this, they will look for another opportunity outside of your team.
7. Positively motivate your team and share credit for a job well done. There will be many times when it will be appropriate to say “we” instead of “I”. Congratulate people when they have achieved something great.
8. Be helpful. If a problem arises, focus on developing the solution with your team. You need to be the person driving the discussion as to what options are available to resolve the issue, rather than pointing fingers. If you are a respected leader, the person responsible for an error is going to self-inflict more disappointment than you could ever communicate for having let you and your team down. You need to let that person know that you will fix the problem together.
9. Don't be afraid to make changes. We have all had to make a number of changes to acclimate ourselves to the new normal. But… recognize that people hate change. It makes them nervous. Clearly communicate the reason changes are being made and how they affect each group in your organization. Be there to manage your team's emotional reaction to the changes that you make and deliver on the change management plan you have communicated to your team.
10.  Do not be afraid to say “I don’t know the answer to that question but I will find someone who does.” People will respect your honesty and you will learn something new.
11. Be conscious of your own physical and emotional well-being. You are not contributing effectively to your team if you are not operating at full capacity. You have to be able to manage yourself before you can manage others.
Finally, remember, there is a lot of luck to anyone's success and your humility and gratitude are important to being a leader that people want to work with.
Influenced by an article titled “Living Lives of Leadership and Service-Remarks of UNC President Thomas W. Ross” which appeared in the Spring 2015 edition of The North Carolina State Bar Journal.
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