The Paradox WikiLeaks Exposes

John Ward
John Ward

WikiLeaks and its founder froth strong emotions, for sure. At the roots, it seems, is a classical paradox for business owning families.

WikiLeaks supporters argue that exposure trumps secrecy. Seen more as a paradox the roots of the polarity are transparency and privacy.  Both, of course, have their value – and their downsides.

The transparency-privacy paradox is one of great relevance to business families:

–        Building community goodwill and market brand through active PR risks a long tradition of family modesty;

–        Financial transparency with employees and other stakeholders challenges the competitive benefits of being a private company;

–        Proactively shaping public opinion can increase security risks for wealthy families.

We often frame this paradox as Public Faces and Private Lives. Can you get the best of both? What’s your experience?

One thought on “The Paradox WikiLeaks Exposes”

  1. Regarding the Public Faces/Private Lives paradox, our family has really struggled. We have, for decades, been a very private family. Our grandfather even changed the name of the company some years ago to drop our family name as the company name. We know one family that moved its headquarters from a small town in Kansas to NYC to seek more anonymity. Maybe that cost us a bit of family pride and identification with the business. But mostly we benefited by being able to raise our kids in the community below the radar screen.

    Now our corporate advisors are urging us to be more public with our stories – both to strengthen corporate culture and to pre-emptively share public perception. We see their logic, but it’s really a struggle for us. Our conclusions, to be more public, we hope, will reduce the cloud the perceived secrecy and, as a business, help us from being the target of muckrakers. As a family we hope we will benefit by motivating us all to confront the inevitable need to discuss how we become more comfortable and secure being who we are.

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