A great practice leader can have an exponential impact on a practice. I have watched many practice leaders in a few short years build a practice from just one partner to ten or fifteen partners. This growth doesn’t happen by chance. It happens because the practice leader understands where to focus his or her time and how to find, motivate and develop senior professionals.
Many professional service firms have been growing rapidly and their need for good practice leaders has increased. In my experience, most firms do not have a comprehensive approach to identifying and developing practice leader talent and consequently, many practices stagnate despite the best efforts of their practice leaders.
To develop great practice leaders, you must start by identifying the traits of a successful practice leader. Here are 6 traits that I have observed in most of the successful practice leaders I have worked with:
1. Has a strategic vision for the practice needs. Firms are changing at rapid fire pace; the best leaders are informed on the strategic changes that impact their practices and the firm. And they can execute against that vision.
2. Analyzes the business and ensures the practice is growing by investing in the right services and partners. Partners in the practice rely on the leader to keep the practice growing and healthy. This means dealing with partners who are struggling and helping those who are successful increase their impact.
3. Creates “followership” amongst partners in the practice. Followership is earned by helping other partners be successful and demonstrating a “firm first” orientation. Partners want to feel that the practice leader will put the practice before their individual interests.
Therefore overly ambitious leaders rarely succeed.
4. Has personal market and technical credibility. A strong personal track record engenders respect so partners will want to follow but even more importantly, allows the practice leader to better coach partners and guide the practice.
5. Positive personal outlook. Leaders inspire people. No one finds negativity inspiring. The best practice leaders paint a picture of the future in a way that energizes people and spurs them to action.
6. Builds a leadership team. This might be the most difficult. Sometimes practice leadership teams are appointed, sometimes elected. Getting the right partners to work together is tough. It is important because a leadership team that works together, creates leverage and helps the practice leader have much greater impact, especially if the practice is large.
Firms that can instill the above 6 traits in a broader number of partners will successfully drive more growth across their firms. And when looking for new practice leaders, these firms will also have a much larger pool of talent to draw from.