What do you know? Narcissists–big personalities with big egos who like to exert control and reject collaborative decision-making–are the ones leading many law firms through these perilous times. 

"Narcissistic leaders are distinguished by their big ideas…and general indifference to the opinions of others,” according to Douglas Richardson of Altman Weil. “They resolutely reject the status quo, thus affronting all those tied to tradition and cautious about change. They want to reshape the world to their vision. They don’t much care if others label them vain and self-centered; they count on the power of their vision and their personal charisma to drive them to the top during periods of great upheaval or change. Their style is at best despotic, and often coercive.”

Such leaders tend to be nonreflective and poorly attuned to the needs of differing individuals, Richardson writes. The results are high lateral partner movement and high attrition among younger lawyers for whom money and status are not primary motivators.

Richardson says such leaders may display genius and vision, but they are at their best when they know their limits—or when someone can point them out. He suggests hiring an outside coach “with plenty of candor, a tough skin and a strong mandate from the firm to help with top team-building.”