This brings me to our final observation: The essential constituency and role of the person at the top of an organization is, on purpose and by design, unlike that of anyone else, We’ve talked with many people who have become President or the equivalent of their corporations, including professional service firms outside the legal sector, and to a person they report they realized their top-leader position required them to be an advocate not for themselves, their department, or their service line, but for: The Firm Itself.
This is distinct from and perhaps a step beyond our recent column calling for “Client first, firm second, self third.” That was addressed to everyone except the senior leaders or managing partner. (We told you we don’t write explicitly about leadership very often.)
But if you find yourself in, under consideration for, or considering, a role in senior leadership, know that your role must change. It cannot be that of advocating for any client, any office, any practice group, or any partner. You must wear, as Jamie Dimon has said, the team’s uniform to work every day, and advocate first, second, and third, for The Firm.
Which poses this question: Is management belittled in law firms because we cannot bring ourselves to recognize that being part of the firm itself imposes duties and responsibilities on us? We are, after all, those autonomy-seeking missiles.
And so that anyone who presumes to put The Firm first is unworthy?
Leaders, you know what to do about colleagues who propagate that attitude. Or, you can just slide into leading from the rear, in which case: No problem. At least not right away.