Susan Smith Blakely

Are You Using Your Leadership Skills?

My friend John Keyser, an acclaimed business leadership coach and author of a fascinating new book on women as leaders, asks some interesting questions about leadership in his recent monthly newsletter.  These are important questions and things that each of you needs to address.  Even those of you at the early stages of law practice can be leaders to others.  You all have skills to share, and sharing them in effective ways is critical to best practices and to reaching your full potentials as professionals.

Take a minute to think about these questions as they relate to your own experiences and practices.  Also think about how you can best use your leadership skills to positively affect the work product of your team and the experiences of other team members.  The law profession is moving more and more toward team models, and you all must learn to become effective team players.  Cross-selling and promoting not just yourselves but also the team is likely to make a big difference in how you are perceived professionally.

You will see the “Jesuit experience” surfacing in the questions addressing values such as care and kindness.  That is a background that John and I share through our Georgetown University educations, and it has been an important formative element in both of our professional lives.  The influence of the Jesuits through my law education has helped shape everything I do and the values I apply to both my personal and professional lives.

Here is the way John Keyser poses the questions and challenges you to become a better leader:

  • How effectively am I using my leadership gifts?
  • Am I using my gifts to help others?
  • Do others feel inspired by me?
  • Are others moved to join with me in a shared collective vision?
  • Am I a consistent source of positive energy for my team members?
  • Do people know I genuinely care about them?
  • Am I doing the little things, which mean so much, with kindness?
  • What specialness do I bring to our team and our organizational culture?

Think about it.  For more on John Keyser, see his website and read his new book, Make Way For Women: Men and Women Leading Together Improve Culture and Profits ( Librastream, May 15, 2015).

In whatever you choose to be in life, always choose to be a leader.  You do not have to be theleader to the exclusion of others, but you will be squandering your talents if you do not use your power to lead.

Choose to lead!

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and an award-winning, nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Her new book, Best Friends at the Bar:  Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, will focus on the responsibilities of law firm leaders and will be released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in 2015.

Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues and the law profession, and she has been a featured speaker at the US Department of Justice, Civil Division.  She is the recipient of the Ms. JD 2015 "Sharing Her Passion Award" for her work on behalf of women in the law.

Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she was a teaching fellow. She is a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches and a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit 

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