Leadership with Hosts Michael Byrd and Brad Adatto

October 11, 2023

This season’s theme is Leadership. In each episode, we will look at leadership from different points of view, industries, and professions. In this episode, hosts Michael and Brad share their leadership journey, highlighting the five areas they have fine-tuned. They discuss the impact of mentorship and how leadership can influence a business’s culture and growth.

Listen to the full episode using the player below, or by visiting one of the links below. Below is the episode’s transcript which has been edited for readability. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, email us at info@byrdadatto.com.


Intro: [00:00:00] Welcome to Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. Legal issues simplified through real client stories and real world experiences, creating simplicity in 3, 2, 1.

Brad: Welcome back to another episode of Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. I’m your host, Brad Adatto, with my co-host, Michael Byrd.

Michael: Thanks, Brad. Brad, you have matured to season 14, we will all be expecting a little bit more from you this season.

Brad: I make no guarantees. If you want more 13 year old boy from me, I can definitely help with that though.

Michael: Okay. Well, let’s move on. Let’s get this season started.

Brad: All right.

Michael: You ready?

Brad: Yeah.

Michael: Alright. As a business and health care law firm, we represent clients in multiple business sectors, especially health care. This season we are finding common ground for our audience. Regardless of your background, our theme is Leadership, where each episode we will talk about leadership from a different perspective. Yeah.

Brad: [00:01:00] Mike, I’m excited for this season. We’re going to be super guest heavy this season so we can explore leadership from many different points of view.

Michael: And I think all of us relate great leadership to famous people. And this reminds me of an article I read recently about famous people who have had organisms named after them.

Brad: Okay. Well, this is our first vocabulary word of the season, and you’re making me have to tame my 13 year old brain.

Michael: Okay, Brad. Well, you tame your brain. You don’t have to go there this early in the season. I can’t handle it if you do, by the way.

Brad: There’s no point in any season that you can’t, I mean, we’re all at the end of the day, 13 year old boys. And you made a 13 year old boy statement just now.

Michael: Okay. Well, fair point, Brad. I’m going to say it slowly, please seriously define. I’m going to say it slowly – organism.

Brad: And organism an [00:02:00] individual animal planet or single celled life form. Pretty much like my brain.

Michael: Well done, Brad. Yeah. There is a Wikipedia page with a list of organisms named after famous people. For example, Brad, there’s a type of wasp that’s named after Jackie Chan. There’s a species of gorilla crab. And don’t ask me what a gorilla crab is that is named after Prince Albert.

Brad: Michael. I think that’s not the only thing named after Prince Albert

Michael: Well, first Brad, that’s hilarious. And I am trying to divert us because that’s extremely immature to take us off topic like that. But you are staying on brand to deliver that extra dose of immaturity this season.

Brad: I’m trying, trying to keep our audience informed and apparently horrified at the same time. Speaking of horrifying, Do you remember the line snakes? Why did it have to be snakes? I hate snakes.

Michael: [00:03:00] Do remember that. And I’m really thankful that you didn’t put more umph and try to reenact it just now. But that is from – Yes. Audience. You guessed it, a 1981 movie, Indiana Jones in the movie Raiders of the Lost Arc.

Brad: The greatest of all the Raiders, as everyone knows. Well, our good friend Harrison Ford has a new variety of snakes named after him, along with species of ant and spiders. Do we have some other celebrity examples?

Michael: Yeah. Stephen Colbert, Kate Winslet and Liv Tyler have species of Beatles named after them.

Brad: What about Paul McCarthy?

Michael: Oh, you’re on fire Brad. Going straight Dad joke now. Speaking of Beatles, is that I guess what you’re talking about? For those who don’t know?

Brad: Yeah.

Michael: Impressive. Yeah, no, Brad, but Stephen Colbert has two organisms named after him. He also has a wasp named after him.

Brad: So does he float like a Beatle and sting like a wasp? [00:04:00]

Michael: Oh man, this is getting ugly fast. Muhammad Ali is probably rolling in his grave right now for the few that probably have never heard it before is that it’s float like a butterfly and sting like a bee Brad. But there must have been a ton of discoveries for wasp because besides Jackie Chan and Stephen Colbert, Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Fallon, Lady Gaga, Shakira and John Stewart all have wasp named after them.

Brad: They must be so thrilled.

Michael: Okay, Brad, I’m hesitant to do this, especially after the old Prince Albert line you gave me earlier. But we’re going to test our maturity again. I’m going to name an organism after you and then you get to do the same thing.

Brad: This is such not a good idea. Riley, I think you might need to lead the room. I’m attempting to act mature, but I don’t think it’s going to work, so I’m sorry.

Michael: Okay. Are you ready?

Brad: Okay.

Michael: Are you ready? [00:05:00] Okay. I would name y you would be named after a mantis shrimp. Have you ever heard of that?

Brad: Yes.

Michael: Oh, you have? Oh, impressive. Well, I have not really, but I just searched the internet. Well, first of all, let me explain my process. I eliminated the first 10 ideas I had because they probably shouldn’t go over the air.

Brad: Probably not.

Michael: Yeah. So then I was like, how do I try to be funny and keep it clean? And so I googled what’s the loudest animal that’s out there . And number one I couldn’t go with was a sperm whale. And of course, we can’t do that. No, we could not handle that. So number two is mantis shrimp. I’m like, okay, well, you know, Brad’s loud and Brad’s kind of small, so that seems like a perfect, Hey, I just spotted a Brad, or I heard a Brad would be more like it.

Brad: Yes. I’ve actually unfortunately [00:06:00] seen a whole video on those shrimps. They’re actually pretty powerful little sons of bitches. That’s what I thought you were going with.

Michael: Well, sounds on brand. I think I did well. Alright, I’ve embraced myself.

Brad: In my entire life, no one’s ever called me shrimp either, audience members. Well, I had to think about this. And going with the theme of things I could not say, I had to cut the first several thoughts I had to stay on maturity level that can be published and listened to by our friends and family.. So I went and looked up something called a bat eared fox, and I would call it the Bat Byrd Fox.

Michael: Oh.

Brad: So yeah, hold on. For those who don’t know, the bat eared fox is a little fox species with huge dish like ears that lives in Africa. In shocking news, the bat eared fox uses his enormous ears to listen to the subterrain termites [00:07:00] and insects that it then diets on. So, for you, Michael, I came up with a bat byrd fox for three reasons. First, he’s actually, we might have to cut all this by the way, Riley. He’s an actually excellent listener, audience members, and he sometimes, honestly, he tunes into some statements that other attorneys most likely will miss. Second, like most foxes, Michael’s pretty sly. He actually does approach things legal issues in ways that’s very unexpected, so he’s sly like a fox. And then third, I thought it’d be great to give an animal named after the bat eared fox another animal’s name by calling it the Bat Byrd Fox.

Michael: That was actually kind of sweet, Brad. I’m impressed. I was fully expecting some species of a dinosaur.

Brad: I will say this, audience members, when Michael proposed that, we have to think about this, this took a while to get here.

Michael: Well, nice. Well done. And, but I do think it’s time for us to… [00:08:00]

Brad: And Riley, let’s cut all the nice stuff. Just go to anything ugly. I said in prior episodes just drop it in there instead.

Michael: Yeah., you know what these ears heard Brad. I was listening because that’s my animal, my organism. Well, let’s transition to our conversation on leadership. And I think even you’re going to be impressed with our guests that we have to open this season.

Brad: Is it Taylor Swift?

Michael: Well, some, a very few some, maybe two people would argue even better than Taylor Swift, I guarantee.

Brad: Maybe two people.

Michael: One and a half, yes.

Brad: I know someone who would not.

Michael: Well, two outta the three in this room would argue it. So, our guests this season, Brad, are Brad Adatto and Michael Byrd, or not on this first episode.

Brad: Okay. Awesome. Well, I guess since we are our guests, maybe I’ll start with the first question to our distinguished guests. [00:09:00] All right, Michael, this is going to be the first question to launch into this. What was your first leadership position? And you can go all the way back to childhood if you like, when you were deemed a leader.

Michael: An audience. I promise you we’re going to give you our sincere serious answer so that we can kick this season off. And so, I did want to mix in my typing skills in some way, but I really didn’t have a leadership position, so I decided to play this down the line. So the first three that I thought of, and I thought of them because of the impact I feel like they’ve had throughout my life, was in high school I was the captain of the tennis team. And having that role of leadership was probably the first time I really at least had a recognition of having a leadership role. I knew that I was in this position and I felt a responsibility. There [00:10:00] were several when I was a senior, several freshmen and sophomores. And you can kind of tell that they looked up to the seniors in general. So, it was the first time I just, I felt the weight of leadership. And then when I was in college, I was a rush captain in my fraternity. And that was an experience in leadership in of itself that involved copious amounts of doing immature things. It also required way more work than I thought it was going to require going into it. And a lot of socialization skills, which as you well know, as one of my longtime friends, I’m an introvert by nature.

Brad: Yes, you are.

Michael: And so that was difficult. And then one that was a surprising thing to me was the leadership required when I was on law review in law school. And it was not something, I didn’t even know what law review was when I got to law school. And then [00:11:00] as I learned about it, learned that there was, you know, work to get it and that it would help you get a job. That was the main reason I tried to write on.

Brad: You reviewed law.

Michael: Yeah. yeah. We published articles, wrote articles, all that stuff for those, most of the audience has probably no idea what it is. And rightfully so, it’s not that important except when you’re in law school and you’re learning about leadership.

Brad: I agree with that.

Michael: How about you?

Brad: Well, believe it or not, I seem to always have some leadership role. So it was kind of funny when you asked me that question, I actually had to start cutting stuff. And it may be my personality being the extrovert, whether or not, audience members’ a good leader is irrelevant. But I started with the high school run my freshman year in high school. I was asked to co-chair a fundraising race that we had at my high school called the Country Day Classic. And I actually held that role until I was my junior year, where then I was the chair for the last two years. Also my junior and senior year, I was actually named captain of the football team. So our [00:12:00] school, depending on the week of practice, they would vote. And so both my junior and senior year, I was named multiple times as captain of the football team. So it was kind cool. It was an honorary position because our team members and coaches would vote. And then my junior and senior year, I was also the captain of the soccer team and that was just designated because of my coach said, that’s what you’re going to do. I said, yes, sir. He was from Germany. And then following the frat rules, I was secretary, which was probably the easier job I had at the fraternity. And then I was also the treasurer. We can talk more about that at another time. So that’s some of the roles I had rolling up into the leadership roles prior to my, I guess, legal world.

Michael: Yeah. Well, you just reminded me that I was secretary of my fraternity as well. I forgot about that. And it was a pretty easy job. Of course, there’s two people that ended up becoming lawyers. It wasn’t that bad. I forgot about that, but our fraternity was pretty straightforward.

Brad: [00:13:00] There you go.

Michael: Okay, Brad, next question. Talk about your worst leadership experience and this can be about yourself or some other story that you know.

Brad: Well, going back to the last statement about being treasurer of the fraternity, that was by far the worst position I I’ve ever had as a leader because couple fold, one, people wouldn’t pay their dues. And then two, I get yelled at because we didn’t have enough money for the happy hour or the party they wanted. Or three, it would be spend more money on the parties and happy hours that they wanted. And it was just a thankless job and constantly chasing people for their money. So that was terrible and I would never. I’ve actually been asked to be treasurer of other organizations, I’ve always said no, just because of how scarring it was. And then in the legal profession, one of my first jobs, I was in-house for a management company. [00:14:00] And that position there was the general counsel who I worked under. And that person probably was the worst lawyer/leader I’ve ever worked with in my career. He would have tantrums, he would throw things and curse people out, weird working hours and just made life miserable to work with him. So, he was my boss and was a, the leader of the legal section. Horrible stuff. What about you Michael?

Michael: Yeah, I was thinking back to a client, former client actually a long time ago. They were just really impactful. Kind of like you, you’ve got these stories from years ago that are just stuck.

Brad: Yes.

Michael: Kind of burned in your brain and you almost can feel the emotions kind of come back up.

Brad: Absolutely.

Michael: You’re picking a scab even talking about it. But we had a client that was former military and I guess, you could describe [00:15:00] his leadership style as kind of military type style, chain of command, you know, type military style, except he ran a civilian private business. And when people didn’t do the, you know, you make a command and someone doesn’t do it, that was very frustrating to him because in the military, you know, if a code red is ordered Brad, then…

Brad: You do the code red.

Michael: Yeah, exactly. And so everyone was terrified of him, including me because I was working for him as an outside attorney. And he would use intimidation and yelling and just kind of squash you into submission if you didn’t agree with him or you didn’t do what he was wanting to do.

Brad: Was your answer always, sir yes sir?

Michael: I felt like that’s what was being requested. And maybe [00:16:00] that’s why I’m so scarred by it because I didn’t do that.

Brad: And for the audience, he wasn’t running a military company.

Michael: No. It was a private business, as you know. We’re business and health care attorneys. This was not actually in health care, but I mean, no, it was not. And I could see the impact. I mean, there was a lot of the times we were dealing with employment issues. I was like, I know. I’m like, I know, it’s my client is the problem. I mean, I knew it. And we were constantly managing those things. And one of the things that was, you know, it really impacted me that I thought I never want to be that person, is, you would be on conference calls and he would be the first to take the credit if something went right, and the last to take the blame if something went wrong. And there were several times where I was like, I know that he messed something up because I was the attorney and I would see him throw a subordinate under the [00:17:00] bus to others. And I just thought, I don’t ever want that to be me as I’m building my leadership skills. And I was still young in my career. I was in my thirties when this happened.

Brad: So that’s like 900 years ago.

Michael: Yes, Brad.

Brad: Brad is back.

Michael: No more niceties.

Brad: So, you know, let’s talk about, you know, so we’re talking about some bad leadership. What was the impact to you for good leadership? And again, it could be other examples that you have in life or where you see good leadership could lead to.

Michael: I’m going to correlate it to you and I so you get to kind of – I know you’ll agree with me. Because you and I have been on this ride together as we’ve been building ByrdAdatto and we’ve spent a lot of time, we’ve mentioned we’ve had Robin Ewon as a guest, and he’s helped us raise our leadership skills significantly. I think even more than [00:18:00] that, he’s convinced us how impactful, going to your question, good leadership is and makes us both realize how important it’s to strive for good leadership. And I remember the first time that he was trying to convince us of how impactful good leadership was. He used some examples from articles where it said, if you invest in leadership, you can expect a seven times return on that investment. And it wasn’t necessarily in dollars, by the way. There was an article, and actually I’ve since Googled it, and there’s several articles out there that are even bigger numbers than the seven x. And so, I think what that has helped – one of the things that I’ve noticed about you and I is, you know, we’re both kind of Labradors by nature. We like everybody. And so, there was a time where if someone who [00:19:00] was bad for the culture of the company was working for us or with us, that we would let it go on too long. And I think that we’ve learned some valuable lessons along that front that sometimes good leadership is making really hard decisions and doing really hard things.

Brad: Yeah, no doubt about that. And I think I’ll echo on that. And what we see, and either here at the firm and or what we strive for here at the firm, but what we see at other organizations is when you have great leaders, you typically have a great culture because the leaders are looking to help grow everyone. And growth is not just the size and scope of the business, but growth in the individuals who work for you in your team. I mean, one of our passions is helping others succeed and having that leadership role to help continue to nurture that has been something that you and [00:20:00] I have always looked to as it relates to how to make people better. And every single person has some gift with strengths and leadership skills. And we have been blessed this last, you know, journey that we’re on right now is growing everyone with that leadership. So I see here at the firm, and I also see at other businesses that focus on that, a big difference in how they react to different – especially when there’s some crisis’s.

Michael: Right.

Brad: All right, Michael, let’s move on.

Michael: Okay, Brad, tell me what is your leadership style – better than yours?

Brad: No. You know what, Michael, audience members, we have spent a lot of time really thinking through this answer. And I think, Michael, before I actually give the answer, and I know you love context, why don’t you give the audience some context as about how we develop that?

Michael: Yeah. I mean, it’s not going to shock our audience that we truly are in real life, like stepbrothers. [00:21:00] We have run this firm together. I mean, we ran our team together. I mean, ever since 2006, we’ve run everything together and we either do or don’t do things by whatever we come to as the best decision. And so when it came to our journey with Robin and developing our leadership – identifying our leadership style and really being clear, first and foremost for ourselves, you and I felt like we needed to be aligned on this because how could we be lockstep? And we knew, obviously have known each other and been friends for so long that, that we kind of knew we already had the same leadership style. But it made it interesting because you and I went through an exercise some time ago, where it was a month’s long process Yeah. And [00:22:00] several meetings where Robin helped us talk through our strengths. He helped guide us to identify what we thought were important attributes to great leadership. We spent hours looking inward to kind of hone in on who we are and who we want to be from a leadership perspective. And what we learned along the way, I mean, we know this, but we also learned pretty quickly that we were only going to get out of it what we put into it. And so, it was a pretty intense process where we would almost be reluctant to go to the meeting because you knew it was going to be hard. You knew there was going to be a lot of heavy stuff to kind of think through, and then we would just come out both drained and energized at the same time, if that’s possible.

Brad: Absolutely. And audience, the fascinating part of that journey was the beginning exercises. We were writing stuff down [00:23:00] separately and then combining it. And unfortunately, or fortunately, we both think a lot alike. So after really spending a lot of time crafting this with not just us, but our other partners and really, and our other leaders at, at here, at ByrdAdatto, we fine-tuned it to basically five areas. And so, audience members, we’ll give you all five. So showing up, and showing up is creating time to be with your team and present and engaged. And we really have to lean into, as Michael talked about earlier, these hard conversations. The next tenet was sharing openly. Sharing openly starts with being vulnerable and transparent and authentic, we address issues directly and respectfully. The next one is ask to understand. We ask questions at a genuine interest and curiosity. We actually listen and do not jump to conclusions or make assumptions. By the way, that makes also a really good lawyer.

Michael: Yeah.

Brad: Be empathetic. Being empathetic begins with acknowledgement and compassion. We put ourselves in other shoes. [00:24:00] And finally, audience members, our last one is bringing the positive. We convey passion and energy through attitude and gratitude. We celebrate our team and our wins.

Michael: Yeah. And I was kind of reflecting as you’re going through it and thinking about the thing that there’s some of these that are harder for me than others. Some of them I feel like are skills that have been fine tuned. And one of the things you and I have talked about even this summer is, it’s not hard. I don’t have a hard time being present, engaged when I’m with someone. I found myself having a hard time making time for my team. Like, you get into the day-to-day grind of our schedules and look up and you’re walking out the door and you’ve just been nose down all day.

Brad: Michael, if you stayed longer than an hour, we’d appreciate that, by the way.

Michael: Well, Brad, I’m trying to make the most out of my hour.

Brad: Well, and that perfectly ends into my next question to [00:25:00] you, Michael. What is the biggest lesson learned, positive or negative, that you can share with our audience on leadership?

Michael: You know, I think the investment in yourself to cultivate leadership is worth it. I mean, number one is worth it. And I didn’t know that even though; even when we started this sometime ago, I didn’t really know it to the point where I believed it fully. But as I see the impact it has both on myself and others who have done that here. You grow yourself individually by doing it, but at the same time, it helps grow the people that you’re in charge of leading and it helps grow the organization, so there’s this like multiple ripple effect. If you invest in leadership in yourself that you end up impacting not just yourself, but the people that you directly work with and even the overall organization.

Brad: Yeah, all fair points. I [00:26:00] would say on my reflection, we talked a little bit about what we’ve been doing here. But I’ll say this for me, I’ve been very blessed to see great leadership by having three mentors I can think of, besides by the way my mom and dad are great mentors too, but in the professional realm. When I was at the DA’s office for two years, Stacy was my boss and she was a really good mentor about really thinking through processes that were very difficult to go through because of the type of crimes I was dealing with, so I was glad to have her. And then when I was in-house with that at the MSO, even though my boss was horrific, one of my true mentors was the CEO of the company who Randy, who ended up being a great person to learn about just running a business in general. Not so much legal, but just how to work with employees, how to think through a process, what was important, so learned a lot from Randy. And then finally, my mentor [00:27:00] from New Orleans, Cathy, who was just an amazing person on multiple different levels because I learned a lot from her how to practice law, but then also how to run a law firm, which is, as you know, it’s different. You can be a really good lawyer and still not understand how to practice or to run a law firm. So great mentors also help with leadership. But Michael, you know, we’re getting close to the end, so let’s go to commercial and the other side, we’ll take some legal takeaways here.

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Brad: Welcome back to Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. I’m your host, Brad Adatto. I’m still here with my co-host, Michael Byrd. Now Michael, this season, our theme is Leadership. You know, in audience members, we spend a lot of time discussing observations of what we have from leadership. But I thought, Michael, just as we’re closing out today, I could give an example of these leadership skills that we have learned and actually applied it. And so, the example I can give is we had a client, audience members, that was extremely demanding on our staff and team members. And let’s just say he wasn’t very pleasant to the team via the way he left voicemails and his emails. And it really started shaking them. And it got to the point where several team members didn’t even want to work with him. And we’re talking about attorneys at that, and I realized this client really needed our help, but we would probably need to figure out how to change that. And so, I ended up calling him and talking to him about how he was [00:29:00] treating our staff and our associates, and that this was not a path that we could continue with the relationship. And as you can imagine, Michael, he was very defensive at first, but I actually provided him examples of his voicemails and his emails. And he actually reflected on that and actually ended up apologizing later. It took about a day or so. And he actually said he was very appreciative that we had that conversation. And he realized how stressed out he was about launching his business and that he reflected that this was not the person he wanted to be, and not the leadership style that he wanted to be because obviously he was still a leader of our organization. And because of that conversation that I learned about being a good leader and being positive for our team, I was able to have that conversation. So Michael, I know we’re almost out of time. Do you have any final takeaways?

Michael: Yeah, I mean, the final thought is that leadership starts I think for everyone. I mean, if you want to be a leader, you have to lean into the hard things. And it’s [00:30:00] amazing if you think about it from a legal perspective, how many kind of crises would not happen if people would just deal with it? Which would be, you know, the kind of the beginning of showing good leadership. And who knows, maybe if you did that, you could have a mantis shrimp named after you or some other organism and you’d be famous.

Brad: There you go. Well, audience members, we will continue this discovery of what is great leadership as next week we bring on Dr. Kay to join us. Thanks again for joining us today. And remember, if you like this episode, please subscribe, make sure to give us a five star rating and share with your friends.

Michael: You can also sign up for the ByrdAdatto newsletter by going to our website at byrdadotto.com.

Outro: ByrdAdatto is providing this podcast as a public service. This podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast does not  [00:31:00] constitute legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by ByrdAdatto. The views expressed by guests are their own, and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Please consult with an attorney on your legal issues.

ByrdAdatto founding partner Michael Byrd

Michael S. Byrd

ByrdAdatto Founding Partner Bradford E. Adatto

Bradford E. Adatto

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