Preparing the Rising Generation for Leadership

Date: Aug 07 2019

Mindy Kalinowski Earley, CMP, CFBA, Chief Learning Officer, Family Office Exchange

What do our future family leaders need to learn? When should family education begin and how formalized should it be? How will we adequately prepare the rising generation for the lives they will lead and the roles they will play? 

Sound familiar? These are the common questions I hear from many of our member families lately. The questions are both simple and complex. The answers are the same.  


What do our future family leaders need to learn? 

Has your family gone through an exercise, perhaps at a family meeting, and had this conversation? Have you defined, together, what is most important for family members to know? Maybe understanding the family values and history is the foundation for your family learning. Maybe a strong sense of financial literacy is a core component of your learning program. No matter what you choose, make sure the recipients of the education are clear as to why the family selected the necessary education that they did, and are also aware of the importance of the education. 

At FOX we have identified five core knowledge areas necessary for future family leaders, all of which will be offered in our new Rising Gen Leadership Program (RGLP). Those subject areas, Personal Identity & Growth, Personal Leadership Skills, Personal Finance, Shared Ownership & Engagement, and Governance and Board Training are delivered through our RGLP that launches this September 26-27 in Chicago. The program encompasses a comprehensive set of modules that will equip emerging family leaders with a leadership toolkit and offers technical education and skill-building that will set them up for future success. 

Ask yourself: As a family, could our rising gen members articulate why family learning is important, and what specific subjects family leaders need to learn? Are we supporting our rising gen and encouraging them to attend external education programs? 


When should family education begin? Should it be formalized?  

Family education begins at a young age as your children watch you represent family values through your actions, and continues every time they hear you talk about the family business, see you make shared decisions with family members and listen to you on a conference call. Education is omnipresent and immersive. Our 2018 FOX Family Learning survey found that the top training opportunities for family leadership were to expose the rising generation to information and concepts through family meetings/committees, family advisors and family philanthropy. Individuals learn by listening, watching and later becoming confident and experienced enough to become involved. This means that informal learning is as common and important as formalized learning. There is no replacement for practical application. As this list by Family Business Magazine, "How NextGens Can Gain the Family Support" suggests, rising gen members should demonstrate their competence and willingness to learn. 

Ask yourself: What opportunities exist, and invitations have been extended, for the rising generation to join family meetings, be part of conversations and watch the leadership generation? How are we beginning to step aside as family leaders and make space for our future leaders? 


How will we adequately prepare the rising generation for the lives they will lead and the roles they will play?

This is a multi-pronged approach. Many parents don’t take on the task of educating their young children themselves. They send their children to preschools, boarding schools, private or public schools. Similarly, families and family offices should not feel the burden of educating their rising generation on their own. The families that model (effectively educating their rising gen) have a mix of self-created in-house programming, opportunities for individuals to attend industry conferences, consultants and coaches, and FOX resources to support these efforts. Having designed in-house learning programs in a single family office, I am aware of the unique opportunity that individualized, contextually-specific programming provided the family members. I am also aware that stand-alone, in-house programming prevented them from engaging with peers, having honest conversations with individuals at the same life stage, and having an ability to benchmark their activities with other family offices. Our FOX Rising Gen Forums fulfill that exact need for an environment for of peer exchange, networking, developing soft-skills and having shared learning experiences. 

Ask yourself: Do our rising generation family members have opportunities to connect with their peers, feel part of a community and learn new ideas that they can bring back to the family? 

In my work with families I often refer to the sage words of Jay Hughes. I especially love this recent quote from him in the Wealth of Wisdom Podcast, a podcast that is an extended conversation expanding on the questions in the book Wealth of Wisdom.  

“Any family that sees the learning as a COST, does not have the intention to avoid the (shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves) proverb.” – Jay Hughes

Ask yourself… Are we committed to supporting our future family leaders by encouraging their learning, stressing the importance of their education and providing them with the tools and resources so they may be successful? The rising gen want to be heard; they want to be included. They want to understand what is expected of them and what roles they may be able to fill in the future. Listen to them, ask them to become involved and help them on their path to personal achievement and self-actualization. Think of the most inspiring leaders and teachers you have learned from and embody the best of those individuals. Be a family champion who encourages a culture of learning and supports the rising generation on their learning journeys.