Words of Wisdom for New Family Leaders

Date: Mar 26 2013

Jennifer Muntz

Recently, a conversation with a next gen member about leadership succession challenges within her family made me realize how frequently younger family members accept a leadership role only to find themselves overwhelmed by their new responsibilities. I recently asked several industry leaders what advice they’d give someone who is about to step into a family enterprise leadership position within the business, family council, board or foundation. This is what they had to say:

Keith Whitaker, Ph.D., Co-founder of Wise Counsel Research Associates and co-author of The Cycle of the Gift
I think that the most important point to keep in mind upon being invited to join the leadership of a family enterprise is that it is a responsibility, not a prize. With that in mind, you may want to ask yourself a few questions before signing up: Do you want to serve? Why? What do you want to achieve? What would success look like? Do you have the time? And perhaps most importantly: What do you need to learn, and from whom, in order to do this job well?
Sharna Goldseker, Managing Director of 21/64 and Co-author of Next Gen Donors: Respecting Legacy, Revolutionizing Philanthropy
It’s important for next gen family members to develop their own identities, so they can participate in the family enterprise with a calm and confident voice. And arrive with purpose and speak with intention.  As a next gen family member, how can you bring your unique lens to the table? What are the skills and life events you can draw on rather than compete on years of experience? 
Thayer Willis, LCSW, Author of Navigating the Dark Side of Wealth: A Life Guide for Inheritors and Beyond Gold: True Wealth for Inheritors
Realize that you are leading by example in everything you do. Work actively to improve your communication skills: listening; being politely assertive; using body language purposefully; and being thoughtful about setting and tone.  Develop teamwork in the family by giving everyone a role, both those in the business and those outside of it, which will encourage family members to be interested in each other and to work toward unity.
Dennis Jaffe, Ph.D., professor at Saybrook University and author of Stewardship In Your Family Enterprise: Developing Responsible Family Leadership Across Generations
I would suggest that you seek out other family members and talk to them about what they expect and want from a family leader. Remember, you are a steward for the family and knowing what others want is a key to your success. If you know the expectations, desires and needs of others, you are in a position to succeed.  I would also seek out a mentor outside the family, who can act as a sounding board and guide for you — to deal with the stress, the many pressures — and help you design a pathway to learn and grow on the job.
Check back next week for more thoughts on leadership succession.

Related Links

Family Leadership Succession Workshop: Developing a Roadmap for Successful Leadership Transition

Seven Strategies for Creating an Entrepreneurial Culture