How I Lead: Preparing Employees for the Next Level

A conversation with Chief Administrative Law Judge McArthur Allen.

As a chief administrative law judge for the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review in Atlanta, McArthur Allen hears cases about disability, retirement and survivor benefits. In addition to holding hearings several days per week, Allen oversees administrative and program issues for the Atlanta (North) Hearing Office. The office has 70 employees, including 11 administrative law judges, five managers and numerous attorneys, paralegals and support staff. He encourages young leaders to explore the many opportunities government service has to offer.

What motivates you?

Challenges, big or small, motivate me. I thrive on the opportunity to tackle challenging situations, develop innovative solutions, and implement actions that produce positive organizational results. I get the opportunity to interface with a variety of diverse and creative individuals, whom I influence in overcoming challenges. I also grow from each challenging experience, both personally and professionally.

How did you get to where you are today?

Prayer, patience and perseverance. As a young attorney, I accepted some of the most challenging cases, often with very little pay. Nonetheless, I litigated for my clients as if they were multimillionaires. I quickly earned a reputation for being a vigorous advocate for my clientele and a successful law practice ensued. Ultimately, my desire to help others led me to government service and I accepted a position at the Department of Defense.  All of this prepared me for my quest to become an administrative law judge.

What strengths do you bring to your organization?

I’m a people person. I am keenly invested in our office’s workforce and strive daily to ensure that they are well-prepared and positioned for the next level of professional attainment. By improving the agency’s talent base, I am helping to promote efficiency, good customer service and a workforce that embraces the agency’s vision.

What is the best leadership lesson you have learned?

Without dedicated employees who confidently follow my lead, I am like a ship without a sail.

What leadership lessons do you try to convey to your team?

I live by the acronym TEAM, Together Each Achieves More. I try to instill this message daily. I depend on the efforts and energy of each employee to accomplish the agency’s mission. People are more effective if they have a leader who understands their potential and value, and I try to recognize and appreciate my employees every day.

What is a good book you have read recently?

I love reading books about leadership, perseverance and success in the face of adversity. I am reading One Nation by Dr. Ben Carson. Also, I am fortunate enough to work for an agency that offers its employees audiobooks through a free exchange program. I am currently listening to 100 Ways to Motivate Others by Steve Chandler.

What do you look for in potential employees when making hiring decisions?

I look for leadership qualities because the one asset that will appreciate in any organization, and ensure its growth potential and success, is the right people. I look for energetic individuals who are talented and eager to roll up their sleeves to tackle a diverse array of circumstances.

Tell me something your co-workers do not know about you.

Despite my tendency to work long hours, I am an avid hunter and angler.

How do you involve your employees to ensure everyone is on board with a new idea?

Human nature makes us all somewhat resistant to change. We get in a comfort zone that becomes difficult to penetrate and often ask, “What’s in it for me?” when new ideas are introduced.  I challenge those that I lead, as well as myself, to step outside the comfort zone and ask, “What is in it for those we serve?”

What is your latest goal or ambition?

Continue to improve myself, those in my circle of influence, and the organization. I remain ready to embrace new ideas and changing technology. When people become stagnant in their quest for improvement, they lose their will to succeed.