If you’re a legal leader, you’re likely at that top of your game when it comes to your technical proficiency. You’re an expert delegator. The projects you lead sail smoothly. And ‘conflict-resolution’ is your middle name.
But cutting-edge thinking on leadership for legal professionals says these technical skills are no longer enough.
Being a successful leader goes beyond these task-based competencies. It involves self-awareness and the ability to question deeply held beliefs about yourself and how you lead.
This is what’s known as ‘vertical leadership development’. And it has the potential to transform how you lead – forever.
Here to talk us through the ins and outs (and ups and downs) of vertical leadership development is Daljit Singh. Daljit is the Principal of the Transforming Talent Consultancy, and Teaching Fellow of The College of Law’s Leadership course.
Understanding this new dimension to leadership
When it comes to a leader’s skillset, we can see it as having two axes: one horizontal, one vertical.
Daljit Singh says to understand vertical leadership, it’s best to start with what is meant by horizontal leadership development.
“If you’re a legal leader, you’ll have spent many years honing your skills. These skills are measurable and largely controllable – such as delegating tasks, giving feedback and resolving conflicts.
“Of course, these skills are all very important when leading a team and business. But they’re not the complete picture.
“Vertical leadership development, which is just as important, is about increasing levels of self-awareness and ability to deal with more complexity. It involves clarifying your thinking processes and examining any beliefs that might be holding you back as a leader.
“It involves approaching decisions with much more insightful questioning, observation and reflection… before jumping into action.
“When you use this approach, you make room for deeper understanding, greater clarity – and more insightful perspectives and solutions to consider. Which means you’re able to better deal with complexity and uncertainty,” he says.
The time for change is fast upon us
Mindsets are changing when it comes to defining what leadership really means.
However, according to Daljit, legal leaders and the organisations they work in are still predominantly focusing on horizontal skills development.
“Lawyers are operating in an increasingly complex environment. The industry is being disrupted by new technologies, changing client expectations and new ways of working.
“Deeply engrained thinking about legal work needs to change. Vertical leadership development offers leaders an opportunity to become more self-aware and adaptable – two critical requirements for navigating the changes before us,” he says.
The many upsides of vertical leadership development
The journey to vertical leadership development involves several growth stages, with the end goal to create a team that embraces collaboration – and spurs on and celebrates innovation.
“Embracing collaboration translates into a more engaged, energised and connected work culture. The impact on your bottom line is obvious: greater effectiveness, efficiencies and financial success.
“Secondly, innovation leads to a wide range of benefits – from discovering new revenue streams to designing better ways of operating,” says Daljit.
How to shift the thinking in your workplace
So, how can you embrace this transformative approach to leadership in your organisation?
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just making a decision that your leaders will need to behave differently – and sitting back to watch it happen.
“Every leader operates with assumptions, beliefs and practices that are deeply engrained, and therefore very hard to change.
“To operate differently, leaders need to develop new capabilities. They need to focus on ways of thinking and creating new behaviours,” says Daljit.
It’s time to start working on your vertical development
The College of Law’s Leadership course is the first essential step to developing your vertical leadership skills.
This 12-week course will help you:
- Build the behaviours that make an effective leader in today’s complex legal environment
- Develop new mindsets and skills to enhance your ability to influence and communicate
- Critically analyse the values you, your team and organisation hold – to dismantle any roadblocks that are preventing greater personal and business success