In a two-part blog post, Family Business Group consultant Stephen P. Miller highlights some key findings from his recently completed research on how next–generation family leaders develop leadership skills.
My research on next–generation family business leaders demonstrates the importance of family climate on the degree to which next–generation family members learn leadership skills. Ironically, some of the leadership characteristics we often observe in entrepreneurs who build successful family firms may actually work against them in their efforts to prepare the next generation for leadership responsibilities. The kind of hard–charging authoritative leadership style that may have helped a senior family entrepreneur overcome the significant challenges of establishing a successful family firm negatively affects the development of next–generation leaders. Next–gen family leaders need age and experience appropriate opportunities to practice decision making, take risks, enjoy successes, and recover from failures. A senior generation leader who makes all the decisions and sets all the rules can unintentionally deny next–generation family members the experiences they need to develop their own leadership skills.
The study further suggests that next–generation family members interested in playing a leadership role in the family business should consider taking responsibility for their own development of leadership skills, particularly emotional and social intelligence competencies. If the family climate is one characterized by senior generation leaders who exercise unquestioned authority, next–gen leaders would be well served to suggest or create some area of the business for which they could be responsible and held accountable by others. If the senior generation refuses to allow it, then the potential next–generation leader may be wise to seek experience with genuine responsibility and accountability outside of the family firm. The research is abundantly clear that shouldering real responsibility is strongly related to emotional and social intelligence competencies demonstrated by the most effective leaders.