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90 in 90: Kathleen Furey McDonough, Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP

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I knew at a young age what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I’m extremely fortunate that my childhood goal of becoming a lawyer actually came to be. Over the last 37 years, I’ve had the privilege to practice law in Delaware and to work with great clients and colleagues. The following are life lessons and advice that have helped me both professionally and personally.

Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP Chair Kathleen Furey McDonough

Practice the Serenity Prayer
It might seem odd to start with a prayer, but one of the most important lessons I’ve learned – in my business and personal lives – is to practice the Serenity Prayer: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Make a Decision
Being able to make timely decisions has saved me more times than I can count. Recognize that you may not get it right all of the time, but successful business leaders know the difference between the decisions they must get right and those where moving forward is more important than cautious deliberations and delay. 

Be Inquisitive
I’ve been lucky to work with clients from all types of industries and learning about their businesses has made me a better lawyer and a better business leader. ALWAYS know your subject matter inside and out – it’s one of the ways you can distinguish yourself from your competition. But it’s also a good idea to know a little bit about a lot of things – never stop learning.

Work hard. Make friends
Working hard will reward you professionally. But don’t neglect personal relationships. Strong interpersonal skills are an essential attribute of a successful business leader and because all relationships matter – choose yours wisely. 

It’s Not Always Easy to do the Right Thing
Making the right call is rarely easy, but you need to have the integrity to do what you say and say what you do. Learn how to say “no,” and accept that many decisions you make will disappoint someone.

Let Good People Do Their Thing
Don’t micromanage. If you surround yourself with great talent, then let them do what they are good at, then get out of their way. Good leaders lead by example.

Even a Stopped Clock is Right Twice a Day
Very few people are wrong 100% of the time. Learn to listen to everyone – even those you don’t agree with most of the time. And have the courage and confidence to admit when you’re wrong.

Find the Humor
A good sense of humor will help in almost every situation. And the best sense of humor in a business leader is the type where you can laugh at yourself.

Recognize the Value of Showing Up
It’s been said that “half the battle is just showing up.” Show up and be present, in the most positive way you can. Business meetings, chamber of commerce dinners, trade associations, conferences, affinity groups, non-profit boards – you never know how a connection will help your career and/or enhance your life. 

Be Golden
If I’d been asked to give one piece of wisdom I’ve learned – and not 10, it would be this: The most important rule to live by is the Golden Rule. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Living this rule makes all decisions and interactions easier – as a business leader and a human being. 

Kathleen Furey McDonough is the chair of Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP. 

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