There are born leaders and there are those that emerge through experience or as a product of circumstance. However it manifests, leadership paves the way for what is to come. It both asks and answers the question “what’s next?”

Leaders provide the framework that ensures individuals, teams and companies move forward with purpose and progress in mind. As professional service providers, our relevance depends largely on our ability to adapt along with our consumer markets. To gracefully evolve alongside our clients, we should consider the business case for leadership with the same level of importance as other market predictions.

A Case for Change

I was several years into my business when I first sensed that I needed to modify my role within my own company. Until then, the verb that defined my career was “do,” but I was ready to build. Hard work had gotten me far, but when I was honest with myself about the future, I realized I wanted ideas to fuel our company’s trajectory, not just the work itself.

It was time to evolve. And yet, time was a finite commodity. I felt a shift in where and how I needed to focus my efforts, but it came with the realization that I would need to transform my daily work life to create the time and space I would need to fully cultivate my ideas.

Choosing to lead doesn’t come with a map, but there are guides to help you find your way. I leaned heavily on trusted resources to fill in the gaps between my decision to lead and actually leading. I had candid conversations with my contemporaries, successful business owners, wise mentors and a trusted business coach about the challenges, logistics and possibilities. With their counsel and my growing confidence in the path ahead, I made deliberate changes in my work life that would help create an environment where sustainable leadership could take hold.

Letting Go

Embracing this new role was as much of an undoing as it is a becoming. Some of the habits that had served me so well as I was building my business were now at odds with my decision to lead my company. At the core of it all was how I spent my time. I had new responsibilities, but the same number of hours in a day, so over the following months I:

  • loosened my grip on how things should be done, freeing up others to operate at their best and highest use
  • came to not just accept, but to appreciate that our company is truly the sum of many parts, all of which are critical to our professional ecosystem
  • stopped doing everything myself and instead delegated based on strengths
  • started asking more questions instead of “fixing” everything myself
  • made time to think and considered it a critical piece of my job
  • scaled back my daily output and looked to my team to step in
No one said this work would be easy, but few worthwhile initiatives are. It’s a continued practice that requires candor, patience and serious trust on the part of everyone involved. Even seasoned leaders need a team they can depend on.

Risk and Reward  

It is humbling to willingly walk into change and embrace the certain discomfort. Choosing to lead will test your limits and your fortitude, but remaining the same could prove even more difficult. Either option is a risk, but your professional evolution it at stake. My new role has heightened my tolerance for original thought, effecting change, and stirring up productive trouble. Now I can enjoy the view of what’s ahead, and I know I won’t have to do it alone.


Author Jennifer Johnson is founder and CEO of Calibrate Legal.  Jennifer prepares today’s law firms for tomorrow’s legal marketplace. She calls upon nearly 20 years of experience inside, and as a consultant to, law firms to deliver industry-leading strategy and executive search services

This article originally appeared in Forbes magazine.

Related Calibrate Legal Insights

The Currency of Trust in the Workplace

| Being a Leader | No Comments
There is an urgency in today’s world that defies the notion of patience as a virtue. When so much is…

How to Maintain Culture in a Virtual Environment

| Being a Leader, Change Management, Leadership and Talent | No Comments
How can you hold on to what's good about your firm's culture when people are working virtually?  Calibrate Legal alliance…

A Business Case for Stay Interviews

| Advice for Hiring Managers, Being a Leader, Building a Team, Executive Search | No Comments
Stay interview: A way for law firm leaders and managers to directly solicit feedback from their most talented people on their…