MVP 14 | Leadership

Leadership isn’t about titles; it’s about empowering everyone to shape a brighter future together. For this episode, Tim Lupinacci, CEO and Chair of Baker Donelson, discusses the true meaning of leadership, transformation, and personal growth. He delves into the challenges and victories of leadership within the constantly changing legal industry, sharing his personal journey from a young lawyer to his current position as Managing Partner. He reveals his secrets to effective leadership, including fostering open dialogues, embracing change, and the importance of mental health in today’s workplace. Tim’s leadership approach goes beyond titles, emphasizing that everyone can play a vital role in shaping an organization’s future. If you’re looking to be a better leader, whether in your professional or personal life, this episode is a must-listen. Tune in now and learn how to lead with purpose and authenticity.

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Everybody Leads: The Power Of Authentic Leadership With Tim Lupinacci

In this episode, our guest is Tim Lupinacci, CEO and Chair of Baker Donelson where he leads over 1,300 individuals in 22 offices. Tim is leading the firm’s five-year BakerVision 2028 strategy and its diversity and inclusion compact. A lifelong leadership student, Tim launched a nonprofit called Everybody Leads, focused on empowering individuals in underserved communities with basic leadership skills and confidence to better lead themselves, lead others, and lead the community. That’s a lot. Thank you so much for joining me. We’re excited to dig into all of this.

Steph, I’m honored to be here. As I’ve already told you, I benefited from the prior discussions on your show. It’s going to be a great discussion.

That’s always good to hear why we do this. Not a lot of my audiences know who you are other than that awesome intro. Tell us a little bit about your journey and how you got to where you are.

Baker Donelson is a full-service law firm that’s primarily in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic United States. To get to the leadership role, I didn’t set out to go to college and say, “I want to be a CEO of a law firm.” I jokingly said I stumbled into law school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was a mass communications major. The whole First Amendment aspect of free speech and everything interests me. I went to law school and came out. I didn’t have any lawyers in my family. I didn’t know anything about that industry other than what I had learned in law school.

I started working and I viewed it as a very transactional type of practice. I got projects. I did it. I turned it in. I’m trying to figure out what I’m doing with my life. Somewhere along the line, early on, I made a big mistake on a project and got yelled at by a boss who loved to show a lot of tough love. He did it in front of other lawyers on a phone call from all over the country. I thought I was going to lose my job. He said something like, “These idiots are going to stay here all night and fix this.”

It was a project I had been working on with some other lawyers who were more senior to me but still younger lawyers. We got it fixed and sent it out. I had drawn the short straw of the next morning picking up the boss to go to court. I got him at his house. We were driving and there was a lot of awkward silence. I’m wondering, “Am I going to have a job after this is over?”

He first apologized for yelling in front of other people but then he said the reason that he was so upset with me was that he saw a lot of leadership potential in me. That was the first time that I recall that someone said I was a leader and they viewed me as a leader. I didn’t have a title. I was a young guy but that led me on this journey, “If I’m a leader, and I can be a leader, I need to figure out what that looks like, how that manifests itself, and how I can get better at it.”

That led to years later learning, growing, stepping up when opportunities came where I did get some titles, and whether I had a title or not, leading the best I could. Years ago, I had an opportunity after leading a business unit within the firm where our CEO was stepping down after twenty years. I threw my name in the hat. Through a pretty rigorous process, I was selected. I’ve been in this role for years. It’s a little bit of the journey of a practicing lawyer, getting enthused with leadership, what that means, and how I could be a leader and get better at it, and then leading this organization.

What do you think your boss saw in you that told him that you were a leader?

He saw that I was eager to learn because I came into it not thinking that now that I had a law degree, I knew everything. I was trying to learn and be curious about things. There was that. I was very diligent about showing up, being there, and recognizing that it could take some sacrifices in the career. I remember one thing he pointed out early on when he told me I needed to cover something or be at some meeting or hearing.

I don’t remember the specifics. I said, “I’m supposed to be on vacation at that time but I will postpone that and be at this meeting.” He made a comment, “Don’t cancel your vacation but the fact that you’re willing to do it makes me tell you that.” The idea that I was trying to learn, grow, and own some things and that I would do what it takes is probably what did.

I never saw myself as a leader until a teacher in high school said something about me potentially going into politics and I was a born leader. I’m like, “Who are you looking at? I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I started to reflect and realize even then, I wasn’t necessarily the one that did all the work in group settings but I was the one saying, “We have to focus. This is what we have to do. You’re good at that.” I didn’t realize that’s what leadership was. Even still, moving into business, I didn’t realize that I was a leader until I found myself as vice president of an agency. I’m like, “How did that happen?”

“What does this mean?”

I remember being in the chair all of a sudden where I was doing the hiring. I was hiring sometimes people right out of school and they say, “I’m sorry. I don’t have any experience doing the actual job yet.” I would ask questions, “Have you ever found yourself naturally in leadership positions? You didn’t ask for it. You didn’t demand that you were the one in charge. You found yourself always being head waitress, closing manager, or whatever it might be. Maybe you are a leader and you just don’t know it.”

Your story of that teacher reinforces this because I’ve heard this from other people too. It didn’t take a whole lot of time and effort for him to speak to me that he saw me as a leader like your teacher said. A lot of times, we don’t know the influence we can have on others. That could be a short interaction but then it could tend to a lifelong journey. I’ve heard that from other people.

It has to be authentic. We talked earlier about the importance of being honest and transparent. You can’t just tell everyone, “You’re a leader,” but you get to know somebody and see something that is admirable in them. It was a good reminder to me that we always need to say the compliment that we feel because that could change somebody’s trajectory. It’s a great story about your teacher.

I agree with you about the compliment. A couple of years ago, I decided that I wasn’t going to hold back compliments anymore. Sometimes it gets awkward because when I tell a gentleman that he looks nice in his suit, he’s like, “Really?” I’m like, “I’m not trying to come on to you. I doubt that very many women tell you that you look nice.” I made it a point to not hold back compliments no matter who it is. You have to sometimes clarify what the intention is.

It reminds me of a quote that one of my clients, the owner of Blü Fern Botanicals, Vivian Robinson, said, “We all make a difference in this world simply by living in it.” I asked her a big question, “What kind of impact do you want to make on the world?” I thought she was going to talk about all this business because they give back in a lot of different ways. She’s like, “We all make a difference in the world simply by living in it.” That stuck with me in a big way. It reminds me of a quote that I’ve seen from you, “Everybody leads regardless of their position or title.” Can you tell me a little bit about what that means to you?

It did start with this mentor who poured into me but I’ve seen it throughout my life. I’ve got a Subaru Forester. Once you drive off the lot, everyone is driving a Subaru Forester because it’s in your mind. I’ve noticed that some of the best leaders I know and at our firm are people who don’t have a big title but they own what they’re doing. When they selected me as the next CEO, I was going to be in a six-month transition but we had a town hall across the firm pre-pandemic. It was still virtual because we were in so many offices.

I started saying that I viewed every one of our colleagues as a leader and they could all get better at it every day. I was in our Baltimore office. One of the best leaders in our firm is one of my colleagues named Nicole. If you look at her title, she’s a receptionist but she does so much to own that office. She makes sure things are getting done if a client comes into the office. She doesn’t sit back, wait for a call, answer it, and redirect it. She owns everything she’s doing. She doesn’t have a big title but she’s one of the best leaders in the firm.

The only way our organization will succeed and thrive is if everyone is stepping up and working together. Everyone has a part. You may not interact with our external clients but we have internal clients. You can own your space with your internal clients. I have seen it work and help organizations. It helps teams when you empower people to step up. I do fundamentally believe it. That’s something that I’ve tried to live out in our firm.

What are some of the key traits that you see in natural leaders?

Some of it is being curious and always wanting to learn to try to get better. It is individuals who are open to feedback and are willing to give feedback. That’s another thing. It has been important to me to say, “I don’t know everything. I can help us get better if you will let me know how we can get better.” It’s the same thing with all the leaders that we have. It’s almost a humility of wanting to learn and realize we don’t know it all.

Leaders are individuals who are open to feedback and willing to give feedback. Click To Tweet

It is this idea of ownership. That’s an overused word but it’s the fact that they’re not going to wait on somebody else to fix the problem or pick up the piece of paper that’s in the hallway but it’s like, “I want to try to serve the client by delivering what they need in the moment and feeling empowered to do that.” Those are some things as it relates to a whole team. There are a lot of other traits when you think about the leadership of a firm, being a visionary, and being honest, forward-looking, and competent in what you’re doing but as it relates to the entire team, people shine when they see that.

Have you worked those types of principles into your hiring practices and what you’re looking for? I mentioned hiring. Tell me about what you look for when you are bringing on new team members.

It does inform a lot of the discussion and what I’m trying to test in interviews. In the direct-hire role or somebody that’s going to be working on our leadership team, I’ll talk about that and then also how we roll it down. It is trying to understand and test the idea of curiosity and being open to feedback. I like to talk about some mistakes they made and what they learned from them because a lot of times, people say, “I don’t make mistakes.” We all do. I make mistakes every day. I test some of that.

It’s the culture of something where we can have respect for each other, be honest with the feedback and the different opinions, come together, stack hands, and build loyalty. I try to test how they worked with teams and things like that. We do infuse it down into the organization where we’re looking for the table stakes where they have to be competent in what they’re doing. It’s making sure of the cultural fit, which has a lot of different subsets. It’s folks that are more along the lines that they’re humble. They’re good communicators. They can be team builders and be open to feedback. Those are things we have tried to build down into our team members and leads as they interview and look for that.

We always are open to looking at trying to make sure that we have diverse views and the widest sense of diversity and inclusion because we know we’re going to be better, and I mean that broadly. We want all those different things. We get better when we do that. We’re not all trying to be this cookie-cutter type of organization. I don’t want cookie cutters that think exactly like I do. I don’t want people to say, “Tim has the right answer.” “I don’t have the right answer. I want us to push and get better through the tension that comes from that.”

I have two questions on that. How do you consciously build a cohesive culture that includes diversity and inclusion? We can get to this later. How do you go about ensuring that your people aren’t yes-men and that they’re not just trying to please you?

There are some practical things I’ve done because I always like to try to get more practical about it. When I was in this transition, I went around to every office, sat in conference rooms or town halls in each office, and said, “How can we get better?” I wanted feedback. That was the first step where I was open. It was pretty rough because we had been plateaued for a while as a firm, not just financially but even in some of the things we were doing. There was a lot of direct feedback. It took me a while to start pulling out of it but when they saw that I was being receptive to it, taking notes, and listening, then others were able to feel more comfortable doing it.

I had to go back and make some changes based on what I learned. I didn’t execute everything everyone said because everyone is going to have different views. I needed to do what isn’t the best thing for the organization but being open and transparent about wanting that feedback is one thing that I’ve tried to do to ensure that I get pushback and that it’s not what Tim wants.

Some of my 360 reviews say that I probably need to be a little bit more decisive once I’ve got the feedback. I tried to work at that a lot because you can get paralysis by analysis. It’s being open and transparent about that. Those are some things I’ve done and continue to do. I have an Ask Me Anything type of session with the firm where they can ask me anything and I transparently try to answer that.

The first question on the DEI is, “How do we make sure that we ensure that we have diverse and inclusive voices across the firm?” Some of that also goes back to the idea that we have open communication and open dialogue. We have a diversity and inclusion compact where we want to try to hold ourselves accountable to be an industry-leading organization in doing some of the best steps we can take as far as building out diverse teams on recruitment and pathways to success.

We do that for all of our colleagues. I want everyone to see their pathway to have enhanced purpose in what they’re doing but we know from dropping the ball in the past, we need to be more intentional about that to make sure there are diverse and inclusive voices at the table. Some of it goes back to the Baker of our firm name, Senator Howard Baker, who was very well known as somebody back in the day in the ‘70s and ‘80s who would talk across the aisles.

MVP 14 | Leadership

Leadership: Leaders should see their pathway to really have enhanced purpose on what they’re doing. But we know from dropping the ball in the past, we need to be more intentional about that to make sure there’s a diverse inclusive voice at the table.


He was very much viewed as somebody who says, “Let’s sit down, listen, learn from each other, and figure out what’s best for all of us.” I’ve read a lot about him. I use that. Part of our roots is to be open, hear different ideas, learn from each other, and try to be respectful of that. We try to live that out by what we do. I threw a lot out there. We can unpack any of it. Those are some things that I try to live out.

Thank you for sharing all that. In all situations, talking across the aisles and listening across the aisles is one of the best ways to make any progress at all in business, life, and friendship. It’s a good thing to teach on all levels as well. That’s interesting that you mention the implementation of the feedback because that’s one of the hallmarks of whether or not you’re truly listening. If I’m open to hearing everything and I don’t get angry, that’s step one.

Step two is, “What do I do with that information?” Sometimes as a leader, the choice is nothing. Sometimes as a leader, you have to say, “I hear you. I understand.” It’s like a parent, “I hear you. I understand but you’re not going to do that thing. That doesn’t make sense for us.” Do you have an acknowledgment system? Is it open dialogue?

It’s a little bit of both. It’s an open dialogue. We do have regular town halls across the firm with different groups, business services, staff, or attorneys with Q&A at the end of all those. We get some feedback through that regularly but it is pretty much an open dialogue too. Our leadership team moves around and goes to different offices to try to make sure we’re all connected. We will go to a town hall in person and people will bring up questions. I was thinking about an example of how that played out.

The legal industry in particular has struggled with how to staff teams internally because if you go back, maybe every two attorneys had a legal secretary that was their support or key team member. You don’t hear so much about people going to college who want to be a legal secretary. That job description or that skillset is not something that people aspire to. It’s more like administrative assistance because as the industry has gotten more complex, you have a greater need for more like an executive for the team but it’s not for individuals. It may be for a team of 8 or 10 people but through all the technology, you can manage all of that.

We were moving toward a more teamed approach but we had not seeded that discussion and move, which was going to be a pretty big shift. We started rolling it out and then I got to a town hall in one city. I joked with our COO that I felt like I got into a buzz saw because they were like, “This will never work. This can’t work. I don’t know this and that.” We had dropped the ball on the rollout, how it was going to look in practice, and why we were doing it or the why behind it because we were having a hard time recruiting new individuals for that role.

That was a very open dialogue. I didn’t go into that meeting saying, “What do you think about this?” It came because they trusted that they could talk about it. We retooled it, rethought it, refocused it, did some pilots, and then came out. Now, it’s implemented in our firm and it’s working pretty well. That’s the way that it may play out. It’s a combination of open dialogue but also very specific opportunities when we are calling for it like in these virtual town halls or live town halls.

Tell me more about the town halls because you have a pretty big organization with over 22 offices. Do you have a regular cadence of town halls? Do you cross-pollinate them to make sure that there’s cultural overlap? How does that work?

We are on a system of at least once a quarter. There have been some times when we have done it monthly. We have the town halls. We’re very transparent as a firm. We do have different groups. We will have our ownership or shareholder town hall. We have for all the other attorneys and paralegals. We will have the business services and staff. It’s three different ones. They’re on successive days some days on the same day. We use the same PowerPoint. There may be a few things we talk to the owners about. There are very few things that don’t end up being talked through the rest of the firm.

It is very important for us to cross-pollinate to understand where we’re heading and how we’re doing financially because everyone has a stake in that, which is what we do. We give updates. We will talk about where we are in our strategy and other initiatives we’re rolling out but what we try to deliver is pretty consistent. Those are quarterly. During the pandemic, we went to monthly and continued that for a couple of years.

MVP 14 | Leadership

Leadership: It’s very important for us to be cross-pollinate to understand where we’re heading, and how we’re doing financially because everyone has a stake in that.


Before the pandemic, I was doing a weekly video to everyone that we were pushing out by email but with a video and a lot of the things that we were trying to accomplish because I was new to the role. I called it Baker Next. We like to put Baker on the front of everything. “Here are some of the Baker Next things we’re working on now.” During the pandemic, we ended up doing daily videos with updates on everything that was going on and all of that. We have backed those down to every couple of weeks.

It’s a combination of a lot of that. We have the quarterly that’s on the calendar. It’s remote but then every year, I’m going to get in every one of our offices at least once other leaders are there. We wanted to reemphasize where we are in our five-year strategy. I asked our board members if they would go out to every office and do personal town halls in every office. That’s going on. There’s a lot of intentionality in making sure we’re getting people together and opportunities for feedback.

Thank you for sharing that. There has been so much shifting in the last couple of years whether people are in the office or how you keep cultural cohesiveness when no one is in an office anymore, or because no one is in an office, there are multiple time zones. People are moving all over the place and deciding, “I like working at my family home in Maine by the lake. That’s where I’m going to go.”

We try to be flexible. We’re pretty much on this idea of trying to encourage folks to be in the office at least half of the time. We do try to have some office days every month. Everyone is going to try to be on the same day where we may have an attorney meeting, a staff meeting, an office meeting, or an office event. You have to work at it or else you will lose all the fabric of the community when everyone is remote.

It’s hard. Like everyone, we’re trying to navigate through it with some flexibility. The legal industry and other industries in varying degrees did fine with everyone working remotely because we all made it work and were serving the clients. It’s a lot of knowledge-based stuff. There’s a lot of actual work that gets done but that can get done at home. We do think there’s important training, community building, and purpose building that we do by being together. We try to navigate that by being flexible.

Some people prefer to be in the office and some people prefer to be at home. Some people can’t work at home because of the noise of kids, dogs, and all the things. Has there been in your firm a shift in attention to personal and mental health after the pandemic? We all worked our tails off into the ground and then all of a sudden, we went, “Why are we doing that?”

That’s why I do appreciate you because of your transparency and a lot of what you’ve talked about yourself in your journey. It’s exactly what I’ve seen here. Like most organizations, we had the attorney assistance programs. That was beneficial to me going back years when I was a new shareholder and I was stressed all the time. I used that to talk to a counselor. We have always had those types of guardrails in place for our colleagues but we got intentional because it’s not just starting to hear about colleagues. Myself, our COO, and other leaders were feeling it too.

We did work with a couple of resources, including a licensed psychologist. She came to the town halls we were doing and did a series of webinars. She would come when we had our leaders together to talk about how to identify and help colleagues who are struggling and how to identify it when you all are remote. Sometimes you can tell somebody is struggling when you walk past them in the hall but it’s a little bit harder on Zoom where maybe they don’t have their camera on. We invested a lot and she still works with us. We still push out content. She’s gotten to know us. We have worked hard. I’ve tried to lead from the front about how I work with a therapist.

Sometimes you can tell somebody's really struggling when you walk past him in the hall. But it's a little bit harder on Zoom or when they don't have their camera on. Click To Tweet

Once every 4, 5, or 6 weeks, we will check. I’ll talk about things that I’m trying to process through. Maybe I didn’t show up as my best self. Why did that happen? What are some tips I can use on that? We try to be open from the top. We need to focus on it. We have added some additional resources and apps where you can get real-time access to a consultant or a counselor. If you’re sitting on an airplane, you’re about to take off, and you start freaking out, you could start texting with a counselor through this app. We have worked with an organization. There are a lot of small things. We’re still struggling as a country or maybe globally. We have to make sure we’re taking care of ourselves.

It’s a little bit of an aside. I had a conversation with someone in Europe. I was talking to her about how I am still battling the corporate mindset of work even though I own my business and make my schedule. She said, “People tell me that all the time but I don’t quite understand it because I’ve never worked for corporate. What does that mean?” I have a habit of saying at the end of a lot of things as a closer, “Do you know what I mean?”

I said, “You’re constantly overworked. You are expected to answer all these emails, make everybody else happy, work these long hours, and not take a vacation even if you have vacation time. Do you know?” She was like, “I don’t. What’s interesting is it’s not that I don’t have a corporate background. I mostly hear this from Americans.” It doesn’t surprise me. I know that’s an American thing.

I bring that up here, not just to tell you about how that went but also to say that we’re talking about leadership specifically. You mentioned that you see your therapist and do your check-ins and how important it is for the leader to embody their expectations. I have worked with people in the past who say, “Take care of yourself,” but then they are eating terribly, not sleeping, and working way too much. You as an employee then feel like that’s the true expectation. Do you have any practices that you put in place to ensure that your people are meeting healthy expectations?

It does feel like it’s more country-specific about how we are here in the United States. Some of these are simple and basic. You’re going to say, “Duh.” I’ve done it because I used to not. It’s even doing bounce-backs when I’m out of the office on vacation and saying, “I’m out of the office on vacation. I’m not going to be checking. Please talk to A, B, or C in my absence. I’ll get back to you when I get back.” I always think, “I can’t take a vacation. I’m in this role. I have to be available and accessible.” That’s one thing. We have encouraged our leaders to do the same thing.

I talk a lot about the idea that we all need what I call my daily disciplines about running, eating well, and sleeping well. I try to work based on some stuff I learned from some of my colleagues about a weekly Sabbath where I try to get off electronics. What works for me is Saturday at 5:00 to Sunday at 5:00. I’m trying to unplug from the office. I talk about that and try to encourage our colleagues.

They may not be able to do it for 24 hours. I know that client demands are always pretty intense but now that my colleagues know that, when I come back on at 5:00 on Sunday, there’s usually not this backlog stuff. If there is, they had set it and said, “I know you’re not going to look at this but I will get it going.” Those are a few small things but it’s leading from the top and walking the walk when you’re telling people to do it because if you don’t, then you’re not being authentic. They see through that and then they don’t feel like they can take a vacation and unplug.

It's leading from the top and really walking in the walk you're telling people to do. Because if you don't, then you're not being authentic. And they can see through that. Click To Tweet

It makes a big difference. If you don’t unplug, you can’t show up to do your best work.

That’s the whole key to it all too. I learned that about myself. During the pandemic when we were all trying to understand this great unknown after days and days, I emailed my leadership team, “I have to be unplugged for two hours.” It was a Sunday. I said, “I’ll come back on at 8:00.” I went and sat on my deck and listened to Kacey Musgraves. I didn’t do anything. I needed it because then I could come back as my better self to lead. I intuitively think I can’t take time off and I can power through it but I learned that I do need that recharging or I’m going to go through the motions and not do the best.

It’s important to make sure that you have the mental space to be with your family. I don’t know if you’re involved in a church or what community involvement that you’re in. That makes you a better lawyer in your case or whatever your role is. Vice versa, when you feel like you’re doing well, connecting to your team, and performing for your clients, that makes you a better life partner, father, or wife but you can’t do all of that. I had to learn that the hard way through panic attacks and sleepless nights. It is a cultural problem that’s shifting. It’s interesting.

The younger generations understand it better and they’re pushing up. For a long time, you had these cross-generational issues, “Nose to the grindstone. Do whatever your boss says that is necessary and make it happen no matter what time.” That got out of control. There was this pendulum swing in younger generations saying, “I’m going to surf or go for a hike. I’m not going to be available at all.”

The older generations are going, “You can’t do that. You can’t go for a hike at noon on a Wednesday.” We’re finding that there’s an ability to succeed and even thrive when you let yourself do that from time to time. It’s not an actual balance beam. It’s more of what I’ve heard being described as a teeter-totter. You will full throttle sometimes in one direction.

I’ve heard it. I have to fill up my cup with things that fill me up. I get joy in leading the firm. There are a lot of aspects of that but I do need my family. We work with a special needs ministry. That fills me up to hang out with these students and know that they love me unconditionally because I’m here and I showed up. Being outside in nature, running, and things like that can fill my cup back up so then I can give my best and overflow to others. It’s hard. I thought I was infallible but I need that downtime and me-time.

Everyone does. We talked about those people who find themselves in leadership. I wasn’t one of them necessarily but there are people who have a desire to be in a leadership position. What advice would you have for someone who doesn’t have the title and isn’t in a leadership position but is seeking to be in a leadership role?

I would look to invest in yourself. The thing that’s so great is you don’t have to invest in a big MBA program. MBAs are great. I don’t have one but the people I know have MBAs. They’re talented from what they have learned. I talked about my Forester. That’s my university. I listen to leadership books or podcasts to get better, get different ideas, and figure out how I can think about being more empathetic, curious, or compassionate and how I can have more of a growth mindset.

One thing is investing in yourself. It may be going to a leadership session for a couple of days. I fully believe that maybe it’s spending money on a leadership coach or an executive coach. Even if you don’t have a title, they can help with your dreams and aspirations. Some of it is investing in yourself with that. Look for opportunities to step up and lead.

Liz Wiseman has a book called Impact Players, which I love. We all know people on our team who are impact players. They get things done. They see problems and come up with solutions, not just point out the problem. Invest in yourself but look for ways to be an impact player in whatever role you have. You will get noticed. I notice it. I see people who are doing that. Those are a couple of things that have helped me and I’ve encouraged others to do.

MVP 14 | Leadership

Impact Players: How to Take the Lead, Play Bigger, and Multiply Your Impact

What advice would you have for someone who’s in a leadership role and wants to make sure that they are showing up in their best way?

Some of the same advice. It has been so valuable to me to have a coach and that safe space. I found somebody who’s in a different industry who doesn’t work with the legal industry. They work with Corporate America because they come with different perspectives of how things could be done differently. I have to apply it to what I’m doing. The coaching piece is important.

Let me know if you are interested in going to another level. I was talking to a colleague who has a title and is leading a team but she’s got an aspiration to do more. She expressed to me, “What are some things I should be doing?” Knowing that, I can look for opportunities to position them in other opportunities that give them bigger visibility. Let a trusted advisor know that you’re interested in that. Those are a couple of things that would be helpful.

I appreciate you bringing up the coaching thing. I remember a couple of years ago, I mentioned that one of my friends was thinking about getting a coach. They said, “Why would he want a coach? Isn’t he the Founder-CEO? Isn’t he where he needs to be?” I said, “Even if you have a board of directors, you can’t always tell them the truth, the struggles that you’re having internally, or the questions that you are struggling with.” They also have an inside point of view. You need that outside point of view. Sometimes you need different types of coaches at different times. Sometimes it’s emotional. Sometimes you need someone who’s going to push you harder and sometimes who’s going to pull you back.

I’ve heard people describe it as your personal board of advisors. I’ve got an executive coach, a therapist I talked to that helps with that, and a personal coach that I’m paying on my own. One of the questions he asked me was, “What do 10 plus 5 years and 10 plus 10 years look like?” It is beyond the day-to-day business operation. It’s going to be different things for different people.

One example that came to mind when you were talking about the value of the outside is we’re in a situation of trying to have a lot of intentional growth or very specific growth in certain areas. My leadership coach works with a lot of private equity fund companies. They’re always all about pipeline management of M&A transactions and companies to acquire. We’re thinking about a different mindset of trying to attract individuals or small groups of lawyers. It’s not acquiring a company.

He set us up to talk to him about how they think about pipeline management and how can we think about that in our industry to build out the pipeline. That’s something that I would not have known about before having this coach. You then could connect the dots outside of our industry. I agree with what you’re saying and why it’s so invaluable, even what you do and what you help clients with.

You never know where your blinders are until you are open enough to ask.

It’s a full-circle deal. My coach has been very intentional about speaking to me about how I need to take time away to take care of my health. The progress I’ve made there has been a direct result of him calling me on it when he would say, “I see it. You’re frazzled. When was the last time you took off? It’s about prioritization and not saying yes to everything. Say yes to what things you need to drive but then delegate to others.” It’s a big win-win for everybody.

MVP 14 | Leadership

Leadership: Prioritization is not about saying yes to everything but saying yes to what things you need to drive and then delegating to others. So it’s a big win-win for everybody.


When I first got my coach, his first assignment to me was to take time for myself. It took me a month to make that happen. That was an hour. He wasn’t saying, “Go on vacation.” He was saying, “Take an hour for yourself.” I’m like, “You have to be kidding. That’s not a thing.” At the time, my kids were young but then he was like, “You are doing fine at taking time for yourself. What are we going to commit to?”

There are different needs at different times. It’s so beneficial to have that outside perspective. You do your town halls and you have open communication but they’re still your employees. They can only tell you so much. Thank you for sharing all that with us. It’s very valuable. In all of the change and growth in your leadership journey, what are you most proud of?

I am proud of our people. The legal industry has been changing a lot. We have been a firm that has been around for a long time and we have made a lot of changes. I underestimated the amount of change and attention needed to do effective change management well where you can bring everyone along but I’m proud of our people buying into what we have been trying to accomplish.

The whole point of it all was that we could then build long-term and lasting success for the firm and all of us. I’m proud of how people have stepped up and bought into the vision. It’s not Tim’s vision. It’s something we built together. I’m trying to emphasize the idea that they all have a role here and a place here. They’re critically important as a leader to help us accomplish everything. It comes back to being proud of our people.

Thank you for sharing everything. Is there anything else that you want to make sure that our audiences know?

I appreciate the time, Steph. There’s one thing. When I had that coach ask me about what’s next, I have been trying to take these ideas of being a leader into this nonprofit you mentioned at the beginning. If you’re interested in that, check out We’re building it and taking some of these principles into underserved areas. I’m proud of that.

Thank you so much, Tim, for your time, expertise, and wonderful leadership.

Thank you for this opportunity to talk, Steph. I have enjoyed it.

Thank you to our supporters, VINE Collective, and also Tower Commercial Real Estate. Thank you for reading. If you liked it, tell your friends and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn. The mission of the show is to dig deep into the lives of true leaders so that others can follow, knowing that the path isn’t always easy but the journey is worth it. Enjoy the day and live with passion.


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Meet Tim Lupinacci

MVP 14 | Leadership

Mr. Lupinacci previously served as chair of the Financial Services Department, a member of the Firm’s Board of Directors and office managing shareholder for Birmingham. He serves on the Firm’s Diversity Committee and previously served as co-chair of Baker Donelson’s Women’s Initiative Pathways to Leadership Committee.

Mr. Lupinacci’s practice of more than 32 years has focused on helping financial institutions solve complex issues arising in restructuring throughout the country with extensive experience with workouts and bankruptcies involving defaulted health care loans. He has primarily represented financial institutions, REITs, special servicers, indenture trustees, banks, and asset-based lenders in loan workouts and insolvency, with an emphasis on health care defaults, bankruptcy and restructuring.