Some of you may know that I am in the process of setting up a new tech law firm together with my partner Michiel van Ast. As part of this process the intended management style in the new firm is one of the key items to consider. We will not use a management style just because it is commonly used by law firms and are certain that the right management style will be a decisive factor in attracting the employees needed to make it a success.
Just recently during my holidays in Italy I got inspired by the owner of a small campsite in the middle of a national park in Piemonte. His name is Luca. Luca studied marketing and business and has applied his knowledge and natural insight to this small business in the middle of the Piemontese Mountains.
Luca applies a non-hierarchical leadership style with a minimal set of rules. He has identified the mission of the campsite: being a successful small scale nature campsite. He believes and trusts that the people that work with him will pick up and execute the tasks aligned with the mission, without being told to do so. There is no clear division of work assignments among them and Luca tells no one how to do his or her work. If you want to buy something from the camping shop and no one is there, your need is picked up immediately by the employee that happens to be there. The people he works with buy in to his management style because they share the mission set by Luca and they get a fair share of the benefit. People are rewarded in accordance with what they contribute to the company. Tasks are picked up because they feel a common responsibility towards doing what is needed to fulfill the mission, there is a shared sense of purpose.
This does not mean that there is an absence of leadership at the camping. If someone is lost or needs direction Luca is always there for guidance. When the daily work situation is stressful, Luca’s nature is to become quieter to take the heat out of the situation. Because of his guidance and personal demeanor Luca is automatically seen as the manager, the decision maker without a need for the formal title.
What is the lesson for our law firm?
First of all, acknowledge that it has to be run as any other regular business. Second, having acknowledged that we run a business, it is key to have a mission. Why do we do it? What is our destination? How are we going to add value to our clients? How do we want our clients to perceive our firm? Third, to succeed in our mission; hire people that buy into the mission. They will have to align their tasks with the mission and they will have to work as a team, where everybody plays on the same team. What’s in it for them? What does it mean if we all succeed in our mission? Joint responsibility for reaching it! If the team succeeds make sure that the benefit is spread amongst the team members in a fair and proportional manner. A managing partner should not earn more money just because he is the managing partner. If anything, it is the actual contribution to the firm which counts and should be monetized. Last but not least, our business needs good leadership. To quote Simon Sinek, leadership is not just a rank or a position, it’s a choice – it’s choosing to look out for the person on your left and to look out for the person on your right. We want to provide guidance, make sure that people don’t feel lost.
Thanks Luca for providing us with this insight. One question is answered, up to the next ones!