By Solomon Shuyang Li CMgr FIML
Director of Viska Lawyers & Advisors, Solomon Shuyang Li CMgr FIML, shares lessons learned from founding his own law practice and serving on boards at a young age.
1. Develop leadership skills
If you want to start a business or move into a leadership position, you should plan early. Even when it seems like the step you want to take is huge, it won’t be if you prepare well. Understanding the legal, financial, and other technical aspects of your business is part of the preparation. However, being a leader requires more. There are other capabilities and soft skills, such as strategic decision-making, managing people, and managing change, that you must build up. I believe that no one is a natural leader, and one must develop leadership skills.
2. Master good leadership qualities
For me, outstanding leaders possess three key qualities:
- Being accountable. Even if mistakes occur, a true leader takes responsibility.
- Having concern. Not just for the business but the people – your colleagues and stakeholders.
- Establishing a vision. Being a leader is about bringing people together. How do you unite people? Through this vision.
There are conflicts in many contexts. I know this from being a lawyer. As a lawyer, I help people to dispute matters. As a leader, I help people to unite.
3. Join a board
As I was preparing to start a law practice, I focused on improving my management and leadership skills. So, I joined some boards; one was a primary school in regional Victoria and another an aged care organisation in Geelong. I contribute my technical expertise to these organisations and, in turn, I’ve learned strategic decision-making, goal-setting, people management, and large-project planning within the corporate governance context. This type of work is often honorary, without pay. Sure, you need to set aside time – perhaps 20-30 hours per month, including reading documents and board meetings, plus additional hours if you are the chair or committee chair. It takes commitment. But if you get the opportunity, I highly recommend joining at least one board to hone your leadership skills and contribute to the community.
4. Get accredited
For anyone to become an effective manager and leader, you should be qualified and trained in some way, either by experience or by education. If you want to step into a governance or leadership role, I think you need to prove to your stakeholders that you are capable of the tasks required. For me, becoming a Chartered Manager means I have ample evidence of a proven track record. It shows that I am qualified to be an effective manager and leader.