8 Qualities of an Effective Leader


By Taylor Burton Published on June 5, 2024

Estimated reading time: 5 Minutes

Lawyers and leaders are two positions with great overlap: the ability to command a room, to influence others, and to be the driving force towards a goal are just naming a few similarities the two share. Even if you're stepping into the beginning of your career and don't picture yourself as a leader, trust that the potential is there. However, becoming an effective and successful leader takes hard work and requires certain traits.

Every effective leader should encompass these eight qualities. If you hope to one day lead your own firm, or you simply need a quick reminder, this blog is for you.

And if you're in the market of counseling small businesses, we've got the perfect CLE for you! Join course planner Zane Johnson of MZA Legal and a knowledgeable panel on Thursday, June 13, as they discuss how to help lawyers who counsel small businesses maximize their value to their clients. This valuable seminar will cover substantive issues that every lawyer should know, and practical ways of thinking about your practice that will help you exceed your client’s expectations.

Now read on to discover the top qualities of an effective leader!   

Leadership sign with sky background

Integrity. Every effective leader has strong moral principles and upholds honesty; this is known as integrity, the cornerstone of leadership. Strong values can foster trust and inspire other people's confidence in you, a crucial pillar of the legal profession. If you lose your integrity, your reputation can easily crumble. Uphold your integrity by creating an environment of honesty, dependability, and unshakeable values.

Respect. As the saying goes, give respect, get respect. You should always be cultivating a respect for those around you, no matter who they are. Great leaders have the ability to make others feel heard and valued. A mutual respect among your team members will foster collaboration and support, creating a legal force to be reckoned with! 

Winning respect can be as simple as being a sufficient leader, but expressing gratitude and treating your employees once in a while can go a long way too.

Closeup businesswoman hands holding white card sign with core values text message isolated on grey wall office background. Retro instagram style image

Communicative. Excellent communication skills can prevent a lot of pain in the long run, as we've mentioned many times on Raising the Bar. You should be able to clearly state what you expect from your team. You should also be transparent when it comes to sharing any difficulties your law firm is facing. The lines of communication should always remain open and run both ways.

If your firm has difficulty with this, ask them to loop you in on any important email conversations. Don't be afraid to hold weekly meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page about the goings-on of the firm. And finally, be sure you're in constant communication with your clients so they always feel prioritized.

Self-Awareness. Self-awareness is understanding your strengths and weaknesses. Take time for thoughtfulness. Reflect on your actions and ask yourself what you could be doing better. The fact you are reading this article is a good sign that you are self-aware. You acknowledge there is no such thing as perfection and exist in a constant pursuit of improvement.

Having a refined sense of awareness can better your decision-making and make you more approachable in the eyes of others!

Business person stepping up a staircase-1

Vision. Would you take your team on a hike into the middle of the woods with zero preparation? Of course not! You need to have a vision of what you're trying to achieve. Have a gameplan while knowing the pitfalls you might face along the way. Don't lead your team blindly; come prepared with a roadmap and results you're aiming for. Ensure that every person understands your vision, knows what part they're going to play, and is aligned with reaching your firm's objective. 

Knowing what you want and communicating it clearly will further build the respect others have for you! See how everything is connected?

Passion. Passion is the drive that stokes the fires of hard work. It's what helps so many leaders make it across the finish line time and time again. Passion motivates, inspires, and pushes us to overcome obstacles. No matter how long you've been in the grind, hopefully your passion still burns fierce, because it's what separates a great leader from the rest.

Believe it or not, your outward passion can infect others. Always remember that you set the standard with your attitude!

Empathy. When you're at the top, it's easy to lose sight of what's down below. In this world, money seems to be placed before human lives all too often. Many CEOs are put on blast for their lack of empathy when it comes to cutting down their workforce. It's important to never lose sight of your empathy. Foster an understanding of your team and their struggles. Empathize with your clients and their challenges.

This incredible ability will help connect you to others and build rapport--a valuable skill for any serious lawyer.

Resilience. Our final leadership quality is the ability to adapt to changes, overcome setbacks, and to see tasks through until the end. It's your job to inspire the same perseverance within your team and to provide reassurance to your clients that you will get things done.

Remember: Good leaders aren't born, they're made. Leadership may prove easy to some and intimidating to others, but all of these qualities can be learned over time, with practice. They're especially integral to those in the law profession. So even if you're not into the idea of taking the lead, it's still worth honing these skills to become the best lawyer you can be.