Adapted from an article by: Anna Johansson
Being an attorney demands effective leadership. You need to be able to make solid decisions, organize plans, hire teammates and provide direction — all under the steady pressure of being accountable for all those decisions and actions. To add even more heat, as an lawyer, your personal success is often tied directly to the success of your practice, meaning every little decision you make could have significant consequences.
Under such pressure, it’s natural to have worries and fears. But fears can intimidate you and obscure your judgment, rendering your decisions less logical and your approach less systematic. If you want to be an effective leader, there are five fears in particular that you’ll need to overcome.
1. Making the wrong decision
As a leader, you’ll be facing decisions on a nearly constant basis. You’ll make major decisions, like choosing your initial partners, and small ones, like whether to continue a proven marketing campaign. Being faced with so many decisions can lead to decision fatigue, a well-known psychological phenomenon that can interfere with your mental health and your ability to make good decisions.
Adding to this is a potentially growing fear that the next decision you make will be the wrong one — your new hire won’t work out, your marketing campaign won’t be effective, or possibly even bigger, more significant fallout will occur. This fear can make you postpone or delegate your decisions, but don’t let it — remember that even the best leaders make bad decisions sometimes. Avoiding a decision is always a worse move.
2. Being criticized for your approach
As a leader, you’re going to have your own signature style. You’re going to value some things more than others. For example, you might appreciate a rigid, formal dress code, or you could completely disregard what the people around you are wearing. When working with others, you could prefer a hands-on style or a much more relaxed approach.
There’s no one right or wrong way to lead. If you’re afraid of being criticized for your approach, it could lead you to become the leader you think people might want rather than the leader you naturally are. You’re going to be criticized no matter what by some, and accepted no matter what by others, so pick the style that suits you best, and don’t let the haters interfere with your vision.
3. Speaking as an authority
Speaking publicly is one of the biggest, most commonly reported fears in the U.S. population. That’s because it puts you on the spot, making you vulnerable to anywhere between two and several thousand people all at once. Any stumble could make you appear foolish, and a slip in words could compromise your credibility.
It’s natural to feel a little fear before speaking to a group as an authority in your field, whether it’s to your team or to a potential client. But don’t let this fear trip you up! Relax before you go on stage by preparing as much as possible and reminding yourself that you’re human, and the people in your audience will see you as a human as well. Even if you make a mistake, it will probably turn out fine.
4. Taking responsibility
Whenever you make decisions, take actions or lead a project in a given direction, you’re making yourself responsible for the potential outcomes of those actions. If your new marketing campaign succeeds, you’ll get a lot of the credit. If it fails, you’ll get a lot of the blame. Proverbially speaking, the buck stops with you.
This can be a crippling fear for new attorneys, but one that disproportionately emphasizes the results of your actions. All leaders will experience successes and failures, so try to focus on measuring your worth in terms of the motivations behind your actions rather than the consequences of them.
5. Failing entirely
As an authority in your field, the fear of failure is personally, financially and logically motivated. If a project fails, you may loose a case, a client, and possibly a lot of money. But remember — failure is never the end of the line, and it shouldn’t exist as the bad word it’s often seen to be. For most successful people, failure is an important first step of a longer journey, and you’ll always have another chance for a different kind of success.
Leadership is at the root of any successful position. Often, you’re the director, decision maker and figurehead for the group. The moment you let a specific fear — even a rational one — enter your head and get in the way of your responsibilities, your effectiveness is going to plummet. Overcoming those fears isn’t easy, but it’s certainly possible, and it’s necessary if you want to become or remain a great leader.