April is the biggest TEAM month in our sports culture.  March Madness culminates in the Final Four, for both men and women in all divisions of the college basketball world. Likely you participated or know about one bracket competition or another, and all in the name of good fun, and camaraderie.

What happens in these final games of the season that is so different than the previous 40 or so games? Pressure.  Stress. Pressure because All-Americans have been selected, named, circulated, and the media barrels down on them with cameras and interviews.  Underdogs are pressured to upset. Favored teams are pressured to win. And college students are navigating coursework (yes, they are students) while studying tape and implementing strategies for the next game.

Sound familiar? Small firms are underdogs. Large firms are favored. Cases are worked and managed while everyone applies new strategies to grow the firm, or to apply new strategy to the big case(s) in the office. The pressure and stress are all around.

Now think about the role leaders’ play in this annual immersion. Leaders aren’t necessarily the All-Americans, the top scorers or top defenders.  In other words, rainmakers are wonderful, and not always your leaders. (Yes, this may be blasphemy in the law firm setting!) Think about the skills that make a great shooter – the repetition in the gym, the commitment to individual development, these aren’t the skills that create a great leader. Yet these are the ones that we reward.

When you consider how your law firm promotes and establishes titled leaders, are you moving your best shooters to the top because they score the most points? Or are you considering the person who leads your team in assists, in being first on the court to practice, and last to leave? It’s time to revisit our leadership criteria and consider how law firms benefit from developing leaders.  I know Kentucky and Duke are already thinking about 2017, as is Notre Dame and South Carolina, and the leadership development of those teams has already begun. What are you waiting for?

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About Judy Hissong

Judy Hissong is the President of Nesso Strategies. A former law firm Chief Operating Officer, she helps firms become more profitable by developing leaders. Her mission is “world domination for Good.” By creating actionable, lightbulb moments that leaders want to share and spread, she intends to improve the world one person at a time.

Judy Hissong