Firm leaders today are trying to get all partners to put the firm first. Many times the same attributes of founding partners that have allowed them to start (and grow) the firm also resemble a "lone wolf" approach or mentality. Some leaders are adamant about developing a culture with a bend more toward a team approach. Styles of leaders differ and they each bring their own unique work style to the office.

So, we ask the question: Can a lone wolf survive in a team-oriented firm?

He said: I think that it is getting harder and harder for the lone wolf to find a place in firms today, especially if the lone wolf does not play by the firm's rules or values.

She said: I know of a lot of firms that still have lone wolves. I realize this does fly in the face of the trend of developing a team-oriented culture. Partners are people and we know that people have varying profiles in how they work and communicate.

He said: I'm not against having varying ways to communicate. If a partner's actions and behavior are not detrimental to the firm and its people, then he or she can be somewhat of a lone wolf. Tell me how they operate: What would you consider to be lone-wolf behavior?

She said: Typically you will find that a lone-wolf individual is highly productive in one or more areas of the business; they tend to work alone and are more comfortable doing so than working collaboratively on a team. Some lone wolves just keep to themselves and are moderately pleasant but quirky, and some have little to no regard for others.

He said: I believe that those who have no regard for others will be a dying breed. The stereotypical lone wolf was a finder, and firms put up with him because he brought in business. Firms today realize that if the lone-wolf team member causes the firm to be dysfunctional, then there is more cost than benefit to this approach to bringing in business. We need partners who are going to put the firm first, and not themselves.

She said: It is true that the world is changing, and there is more of a need to have a team approach. Some lone wolves bring value to their firms, but they are laser-focused on doing the work themselves. In order to answer the question of whether they can survive in a team-oriented firm, I think it comes down to what about that individual makes him a lone wolf. If it is a complete disregard for others' opinions, we have a problem. If it is simply a tendency to work alone and that individual has found success in that, it may be a different situation.

He said: As firms live by more principles and core values, the lone wolf becomes more and more out of place. In many cases, they were always disruptive but managing partners accepted them because they brought in a lot of business. This is often no longer the case.

She said: I see. You are talking about disruptive and sometimes abusive lone rangers. Abusive partners should not be tolerated in an organization. I think many are not like that - they are just aloof and mean no harm. Firm leaders need to manage lone rangers differently. Give them specific goals and time lines. Don't micromanage them, and help them learn to communicate better with the rest of the team. Also, give them the expectation that they need to help develop others in certain areas.

They said: It's a simple fact that unless the partners of a firm are in it together, they will never achieve optimum growth and success. Working as a team is a huge benefit for firms as it relates to client service, growth, innovation and change management. When building a practice, it is best to surround yourself with people who are driven and talented and willing to work as a team. Collaboration speeds success. Everyone wins in this scenario.

August Aquila is a well-known consultant, retreat facilitator and author. Reach him at (952) 930-1295 or Angie Grissom is president of The Rainmaker Companies, which exclusively serves accounting firms. Reach her at (615) 373-9880 or

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