For Women in Law By Women in Law

Where Vulnerability Meets Good Leadership

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Dear lawyer, guess what? You don’t have to be perfect, and you don’t always need to be right!

I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review that I believe every leader should read: How to Build Confidence About Showing Vulnerability tells each of us in leadership roles that to build a healthy team you need to find a way to check your ego at the door. We each need to explore our vulnerabilities, be honest about our failures and recognize our need for collaboration to build a successful business.

As author Dan Cable, professor of organizational behavior at London Business School, notes “the best leaders inspire trust by sharing their mistakes.” Mentoring in any real way demands this of us, BUT how do we do this? How can we bring a sense of humility to our leadership roles and at the same time gather momentum, energy, and the respect of all of those that work with us?

This Harvard Review article highlights how you, as a leader, can leverage your own vulnerabilities to build a stronger business. There are ways that you can be both confidently vulnerable and a strong leader. The two are not mutually exclusive.

What can you do?


Normalize Learning

Everything we learn takes time and no task we attempt will be mastered on the first try. As leaders we need to be patient and kind to ourselves and to those who are learning with us.  Use language around learning that does not embarrass or denigrate. Acknowledge, with kindness and compassion, how normal it is to make mistakes as we learn.

This is so important as we mentor young lawyers and staff. There is no better way to scare learners than to use words only reflecting failures as opposed to opportunities to learn. The reality is that if you are a senior lawyer, you have had the opportunity to learn and most of this learning has occurred by making mistakes. I often say that practicing law is an exercise in humility. Build on your leadership skills with this in mind – be humble and be human.


Share Crucible Moments

As a leader share your journey of personal development. Bring to the table what you want from others. If we want our future lawyers and staff to admire us as leaders, we need to share with them how and what we have learned from our missteps. According to the studies, if you share vulnerable and honest feedback, you increase your team’s sense of psychological safety without compromising yourself as a competent and effective leader. The result of this openness is the foundation for a symbiotic relationship of respect.


Show Moral Humility

Lead by example and by collaboration. Again, backed by data, it is proven that leaders create an environment of excellence where they openly discuss situations where they may have faltered ethically and/or morally and where they collaborate with their team when attempting to solve these issues. As leaders we are not morally superior, and everyone does better when we work together to build a better understanding of the issues. Engage your team and build consensus where possible.

I loved this article and frankly, in the end, the truth is we can all do better. None of us are perfect and we all have self-doubts. What I think this article has done for me (and what it could potentially do for you) is provide a way to leverage those vulnerabilities to make us better at what we need to do – lead.



About the Author

Kim Jakeman, KC is a partner at Harper Grey and – in case this is your first time here – also the co-founder of Life in Law. Not only is Kim a skilled mediator, she also maintains a busy dual practice focused mainly on litigation in the area of medical malpractice, and regulatory work involving professionals facing disciplinary proceedings before a variety of regulatory bodies. Kim is almost as passionate about biking, her new love of surfing, and working out as she is about supporting women in the legal profession. A master of her own balancing act, when Kim isn’t busy with work, she spends coveted time with her family and friends.

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