Getting Beyond Nice


I know a lot of people who think being labeled as “nice” is the kiss of death. It means your bland, boring and can be taken advantage of – weak, a push-over. In the dating realm, when someone describes you as “nice”, the fear is you are somehow unattractive. Right?

Think about it for a moment. If your friend sets you up with a guy and all she can say is “He is really nice” even when prompted for more, all your instincts probably will tell you to run. Nice should be a good thing, right? Yes and, well, for leaders and individuals with a backbone, I have to say many or us prefer words like kind, compassionate, empathic, authentic and humble. The language we use matters if we want people to be more open to developing new leadership skills.

Why is the language important?

I find so many lawyers think that when we start talking about the “soft” leadership skills, we want them to stop being strong – to “cave” and be “touchy feely”. First off, touchy feely is just not what the majority of litigators and trial attorneys want to be or how they see themselves, usually – be they male or female. They fight for a living. They spend time in “War Rooms.” I know I was one for almost 20 years. We need language that does not immediately repel them. Using different language can oftentimes allow a concept to enter and avoid the knee jerk reaction of rejecting an idea out-of-hand simply because it seems antithetical to how one sees themselves.

Second, the inner strength required for exceptional leaders to excel at the “soft” skills is huge. If you are an accomplished leader or working at becoming one, you know that it is not easy and you cannot afford to be a “nice guy or gal”. You cannot be an effective leader and be “nice”. You just can’t. But, you can be all those other adjectives – kind, compassionate, authentic, empathetic. Actually all of those qualities are requisites to good leadership.

The Alchemy of Genuine Team Spirit

Strong leadership skills are rarely taught, unless you were fortunate enough to have a parent, coach or mentor who exhibited leadership skills worth emulating. Most of us muddle through doing the best that we can with leading our practice or team. The majority of the time we probably do okay.   Could be a lot better (and most of us would love to feel more assured in our leadership style), but things get done and deadlines are met.

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When things are tough and messy true leaders – the ones that know what they are doing as leaders – demonstrate how to guide their team through the storm. These leaders create a cohesive, safe, collaborative environment where people know that they belong. That environment allows for continued team commitment and strength even in the most stressful conditions. Those teams out-perform in every metric, including increased profitability. Take a moment to consider, what would change for your practice and firm if your people had effective leadership?

Every team is different. All leaders bring their unique mix of personality, skills, experience, and mindset to their work. There are certain qualities, however uniquely expressed, that encourage a strong, highly functional team. Leaders who have an ability to create bridges and build corroborative, healthy, productive team environments are inspirational for their followers. And, these folks are not “nice”. They hold people accountable – in an honest, straightforward manner. They stand for who they are and what they believe in, and they make a difference.

I created a list of 10 Essential Leadership Qualities for inspired excellence in teams.

Inspirational leaders all have most of these 10 qualities to some degree. They will have their own unique expression of these characteristics, of course, as there is no one right way to lead. And, I am sure you can come up with additional important leadership qualities to add to the list. These 10 qualities are important to develop. They will take you from average to stellar leadership ability. All are learnable and all are coachable.

Let me know what you think about leading and how you have been challenged as a leader. I love hearing from you. Take a moment to schedule time to talk and get help with your leadership skills. Let’s talk about how I can support you with your success. Remember – Success is a Team Sport!