Like Fathers, Like Sons (and Daughters)

Firm leaders are like fathers.

Or like parents, at least, as I include firm leaders who are women.

We may not all be as extraordinary as Atticus Finch, but this Father’s Day seems like a good time to make my analogy between firm leadership and fatherhood.

To me, there are five areas in which they are similar.

1. Teaching & Coaching

Certainly, our younger staff need to be taught the basic skills of competence in the field.  Just as important is that they be taught the less tangible, less-easily-learned “life” skills of teamwork, relationship building, seeing the bigger picture beyond the work at hand, and exercising good judgment and foresight.

We must also recognize and promote talent and leadership in our staff, and delegate increasing responsibilities to them.  Our criticism should be in the form of sharing knowledge and experience.

For better or worse, we are always teaching.  Make it the important stuff, the right stuff.

2. Nurturing & Protecting

As we’ve already discussed in The Management Imperative, we have a duty to develop a healthy firm culture, one in which caring and respect for all is a given.  We must be on the lookout for negative or harmful elements and not allow them to breed.  We need to know and understand our staff, and learn what motivates, interests, and energizes them.  Without them, the firm has no value, and no future.

3. Being a Provider

Firm leaders must be breadwinners.  And on top of this, we must build and maintain a financially healthy and stable business enterprise, conducive to both individual as well as firm growth and development.

The firm must make an ongoing investment in additional talent, tools and resources, in order to create a strong and viable firm for the future.  Fair and generous compensation should be a high priority, particularly for those who will create the firm’s future.

4. As Role Model

Leaders are the firm’s primary role models, and as such, exhibit total commitment to the firm, with unfailing perseverance and enthusiasm.  We must take the long view, and pace ourselves for the marathon.  Coasting is not a luxury we can allow ourselves.

Further, leaders must exhibit both humility and an eagerness to continue learning.  Leaders must be deferential to other leaders in the firm, and to other points of view.

5. Preparing for Future

Perhaps above all, we must always be positioning the firm to carry on.  Time passes quickly, and we ought to have one eye on the ticking clock.  What if we were gone tomorrow?  Is there a leadership plan, and will the various personalities gel as a team, or will we leave chaos and confusion?

We must be communicating today about how everyone can and should contribute tomorrow.  Tomorrow may be too late to tell them.

There is an inherent paradox in leadership.  We must be contributing every day in a vital, essential way– yet always preparing the firm to live on without us.

Very much the challenge of fatherhood, as well.

Here’s to all of those who coached and mentored me over the years, preparing me for their absence.

Happy Father’s Day.


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