Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

7 Qualities of a Great Leader

Leadership signEvery new lawyer wants that elusive quality known as leadership.

But defining leadership – much less being able to grab hold of it – can be difficult.

A good start would be to follow the words and example of Tom Ross. The Greensboro native is president of the University of North Carolina system. He is a former Superior Court judge, congressional chief of staff and director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. He has received the William Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence, the Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Eagle Scout Award and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

So when he took the podium last fall to install Ronald L. Gibson as president of the N.C State Bar and offered his views on leadership, his words carried weight.

7 Steps to Becoming a Leader

Read his full remarks in the N.C. State Bar Journal. Following is a summary:

  1. Know yourself. Take a long look in the mirror – but make sure your eyes are clear and the glass is not cracked. In other words, make an honest self-assessment. “Individually, we must evaluate our own strengths and weaknesses: identify our personal skills, abilities, and interests; discern our passions; reflect on our own behavior; seek feedback from others; accept guidance and supervision; and learn from experiences,” writes Judge Ross.
  2. Communicate effectively. This means listening as much as talking.
  3. Practice self-care. Nurture your mind, body and soul. “Strong, successful leaders not only pay attention to the importance of a life in balance, they also work to achieve it. They understand they must be able to manage themselves before they can manage others.”
  4. Clarify your values. “The most effective leaders I know have a personal belief system that requires them to care about more than just themselves. They have clearly defined values that require honest and straightforward dealings on each and every occasion; they understand the relationship between individual action and its intended and unintended effects on society. They also are willing to challenge the unfair, unjust, and uncivil behavior of others.”
  5. Build trust. People will not follow someone they don’t respect. Earn this by conducting yourself with honesty and integrity.
  6. Embrace diversity. We live and work in a diverse world. Leaders show respect for others and try to find common ground.
  7. Be inclusive. Don’t hog the spotlight. “Confident leaders are happy to share power and credit, so long as the best result is achieved. In fact, the best leaders are even willing and able, in the right situations, to follow those they lead.”

Do As I Do, Not As I Say

In his remarks, Judge Ross demonstrated three other qualities of leadership.

  • He displayed humor by poking fun at his own accomplishments.
  • He showed humility by acknowledging he falls short of his own ideals.
  • He showed self-esteem by saying he is proud to be a lawyer and honored to be in the legal profession.

Want to grow your leadership skills? Read what Judge Ross has to say on the subject, then go out and act like him.

Source: N.C. State Bar Journal,1.pdf

Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney who has practiced North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact him at

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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