A fundamental part of being a leader is the ability to collaborate with others and utilize their strengths and knowledge as we collectively strive toward a common goal.
Gearhiser, Peters, Elliott & Cannon, PLLC
One of my favorite personal sayings is “everyone knows something that I don’t know.” Notice I didn’t say professors, judges, corporate CEOs, or the like. I said everyone knows something that I don’t know. That includes the person who cleans your office floors, the person who bags your groceries, the administrative assistants at your law firm – everyone. We all come from different backgrounds and have had very different life experiences. Our careers, education, family histories, homes, religions, ethnicities, our triumphs and tragedies, and so much more, all play a part in the story of who we are.
Our backgrounds and experiences have exposed us to different ideas, perspectives, and have educated us about an infinite number of topics. No two stories are the same. While we may share much with each other, we are different and our knowledge of the world is vastly different. Our diverse knowledge and experiences make us all an asset. How do we make use of that asset? We learn from each other!
A fundamental part of being a leader is the ability to collaborate with others and utilize their strengths and knowledge as we collectively strive toward a common goal. Delegating tasks and seeking counsel from those who know what they are talking about is essential to the success of anyone and most anything. But we simply can’t achieve this if we don’t know each other’s knowledge and experiences to begin with.
Taking the time to intentionally listen to each other is essential. Sometimes our perceived differences and disagreements and our assumptions about each other prevent this. So often this world cultivates a culture of opposition – the opposite of collaboration. While we may have genuine differences of opinion, always focusing on these differences in a negative light so often is to the detriment of learning from each other.
One of the most important thought leaders in my life is Dale Carnegie, who is especially famous for his book “How to Win Friends & Influence People.” One of Carnegie’s principles is “try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.” This doesn’t mean we simply hear each other, this means we take the time to actively listen and make a good faith effort to put ourselves in another person’s shoes and try to understand where they are coming from, what they are saying, and why they are saying it. When we do this, we learn something about each other and we learn something from each other.
Having conversations with one another, listening with open minds, and trying to understand each other will improve our leadership capabilities. When we take the time to learn about each other’s experiences, knowledge, and backgrounds we will know how to work together better as a team and strive towards those goals that we do have in common as a community and as a society. Learning from each other will make us better lawyers and leaders.