The Lawyers’ Assistance Program is grateful to commemorate Law Day, which recognizes the importance of the Rule of Law in our country and the legal underpinnings that make this country unique. After two years of grief, loss, changes and uncertainty, addressing the topic of leadership in changing times is more important than ever.
LAP is a not-for-profit organization that has been helping judges, lawyers, and law students since 1980. We have seen significant increases in outreach related to mental-health and substance-abuse problems, career issues and interpersonal and family relationship challenges.
Often these challenges increase when leadership is not adaptive to the needs of their community. As the economist John Kenneth Galbraith once said, “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.”
When so many factors are constantly changing, we need today’s leaders to display integrity, kindness, compassion, empathy, emotional stability, and predictability, showing that decisions are made with the employee’s and organization’s best interests at heart.
The Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, former President of the University of Notre Dame, said “The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”
Finally, you must show a level of flexibility that allows people to thrive under adverse conditions. You must clearly communicate your expectations and goals, while holding people accountable for their role in the work product.
You must rise to the challenge of navigating complex and novel challenges with innovation and transparency, so that those who work for you know that you are focused and committed to growing and developing the organization as well as the people who work within it. And you must hold yourself accountable to the highest standards, so that those who work for you trust you to work with honesty and integrity, even when decision making is challenging and difficult.
Every leader should remember that the rule of law that makes us strive for truth, justice, fairness, and equity, also relates to great leadership under challenging times. Focus on creating healthy, happy, and creative employees with flexibility and compassion. As business leader Harvey Firestone once said, “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.”