Building Leadership Skills is Integral to Career Advancement

In today’s business climate, executives such as general counsel are being called upon to successfully lead their teams through myriad issues and challenges and to assist their organizations in accomplishing their business goals in a value-driven, cost-effective manner. Developing and continually improving leadership skills is key to their success. As busy professionals, it’s easy to get caught up in our day-to-day work, and miss out on opportunities that can help advance our own careers and those of others.

A couple of months ago at DLA Piper’s Global Women’s Leadership Summit (GWLS), an event designed to support women lawyers in developing leadership skills and creating business development opportunities, women general counsel came together to share their experiences, thought leadership and best practices on various topics of great importance to the legal industry. One topic that came up consistently through a number of panels was the importance of cultivating leadership to enhance career advancement.

Here are the tips which were shared by some top women general counsel in the country, on how best to build these skills:

Leadership skills aren’t difficult to acquire, but you must be willing to put yourself out there. Acquiring leadership experience doesn’t necessarily need to be difficult, it’s all about searching for opportunities in both your personal and professional life: take on different roles, both within and outside of your organization; choose positions that align well with your skill set but which also give you the room and opportunity to grow and develop; seek out strong leaders whom you know who could serve as good mentors for you; and make leadership books and periodicals a regular part of your reading repertoire.

Network, network and network some more: Additionally, networking opportunities—offered at events like GWLS—are integral to one’s professional development and advancement. It’s important to get out there and build a network as early as possible, and remember that it’s never too early to start. Professionals should be strategic in the networking opportunities they decide to pursue, how much time they choose to spend on them and whom they seek to meet and get to know in the process. While there is some serendipity involved, networking should be viewed as an intentional, rather than a random, process.

Build Relationships: Whether it’s law, finance, manufacturing or any other industry, every business is driven by relationships. The stronger your relationships are and the better leaders you become, the more enlightened, empowered and enthusiastic you will feel and the more successful you will be.

Leadership Qualities You Should Aim to Obtain: There are many different qualities which great leaders must possess. First, they should have a strong intellect and work ethic and must be fully committed to and knowledgeable about the organization they lead. They must also be selfless and self-confident, but not arrogant. They need to consistently do what is in the best interest of those they lead, rather than acting in their own self-interest. It is critically important that leaders be strong, nimble and resilient so they can adapt to quickly changing circumstances. A healthy dose of humility is always a huge plus. Finally, a great leader is not only inspired but also inspires others.

Improving Leadership Skills Is a Never Ending Process: It takes a great deal of hard work to become a strong leader, and it is a continuous process — the learning never ends. It is important to wear multiple leadership hats, both internally and externally, to develop a well-rounded leadership skill set. You must understand the people you lead and what motivates and inspires them so that you can be more effective. Great leadership is about getting others excited about a mission or cause and inspiring them to willingly act in a particular way, rather than just telling them what to do. Leadership is not dictatorship.

By Tina Martini, partner, DLA Piper
Photo by Pressmaster | Shutterstock

Christina L. Martini is a practicing attorney, author and columnist. She is vice chair of the Chicago intellectual property practice group at DLA Piper and sits on the firm’s Executive and Policy Committees.  She has been in private practice since 1994. She focuses her practice on domestic and international trademark, copyright, domain name, Internet, advertising and unfair competition law. She is Chair of DLA Piper’s 2014 Global Women’s Leadership Summit.

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