Bill Campbell’s Leadership Advice

Silicon Valley lost their “Coach” last week when Bill Campbell died.  Mr. Campbell, who had been head football coach at Columbia, an Apple executive and board member, and chairman and CEO of Intuit, was an adviser to Steve Jobs and other tech executives. Recently, the Business Insider posted an article titled “Silicon Valley legend Bill Campbell has died — here is some of his best leadership advice,” detailing Mr. Campbell’s advice for tech leaders.  Some of his advice is also applicable to law firms leaders:

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    Bill Campbell

    Know that great products drive success. Everything else is a supporting function – Although Mr. Campbell was talking about technology products, attorney’s services and outcomes also drive success.  It is important for attorneys to always keep an eye on the end result.

  • Trust your managers, and make sure they trust their subordinates – Senior/equity partners should develop trust in their junior/non-equity partners and make sure that they in turn trust their subordinate associates and paralegals.  A trusting atmosphere lifts everyone’s game.
  • It is imperative that you stop infighting as soon as it arises – As Mr. Campbell simply put it, internal warfare “brings companies to their knees,” and it is the leaders’ job to stop the infighting.
  • Determine cultural values from the outset and then model them – “Values allow employees to hold each other accountable, and the CEO must embody the values or else no one will follow them.”  The same applies to law firms.
  • Evaluate your managers by what their employees think of them – This is one that few law firms employ but should.  A bad apple can be at any level and can spoil the whole basket.
  • Maintain a culture of respect – Respect from the bottom up is essential, but many law firms should require respect from the top down as well.
  • Be honest with your team – Mr. Campbell advocated being upfront with praise and criticism, so that all team members can strive for success.

Truly wise words indeed.  RIP Mr. Campbell.

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