Tag Archives: paradoxes

Just Like Her Dad, part 2

Amy Schuman
Amy Schuman

Earlier this week we presented the case of ‘Jennifer’, who joined the family business two years ago. The COO reported that the executive team was excited about Jennifer because she was “Just Like Her Dad”. We posed the question to you: Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Well, let’s take a closer look. What are the upsides of Jennifer being Just Like Dad?

   *Dad’s approach is proven – why fix something that isn’t broken?

   *Dad’s approach is familiar – the entire organization, as well as customers and suppliers, are already comfortable with this leadership style.  Continuing in this vein will be minimally disruptive and comforting to the larger organization.

   * Values and legacy – a great source of pride and competitive advantage – will be preserved into the next generation.

Can we list any downsides of Jennifer being Just Like Dad?

  *If Jennifer assumes she is being invited to act with the same authority as her dad, she is headed for trouble.   Making pronouncements (like Dad) or taking special privileges (like Dad) without clearly earning the right to do so, will surely lead to trouble.

  *Jennifer is a unique individual with her own talents and abilities. Rather than aspiring to be a clone of dad, she should pursue her own leadership style and let her own light shine forth.

  *Unlike Dad, who always operated as a sole entrepreneur, Jennifer is accountable to a large cast of characters. The ownership group is now larger, and multi-generational. The organization is more far flung with an ever-expanding group of stakeholders. Jennifer’s role as leader will require more consensus building and communication, and calls for a whole constellation of skills and efforts that were not required of the founder.

We are clearly looking at a paradox – two desirable approaches that appear to be in conflict.  Our analysis tells us we need a both/and approach. How can Jennifer be ‘Just Like Her Dad,’ and, at the same time, be her own person?

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this exploration – and if you have any further thoughts about this dilemma, we’d love to hear from you!


Just Like Her Dad, part 1

Amy Schuman
Amy Schuman

Recently, the COO of a large family business told me that he was really excited about the daughter of the current CEO who had just celebrated her second anniversary with the company. The daughter, who we’ll call Jennifer, had followed the family employment policy to the letter and was now moving through the organization in several key learning positions.

“She’s just like her Dad”, the executive happily reported, with clear relief.

Later in the day, I found myself pondering that remark. Is it best for the family business when the next family leader is ‘just like’ the one that came before? Or is it better for the next generation leader to take a different approach?

Also – what is best for this young woman? Should she model herself after her father, the successful founder of a company with global reach, supporting thousands of employees on several continents? His approach clearly was successful, why would she do anything different? Is her main task to study her father closely, and dedicate herself to perpetuating his proven leadership style, or should she follow the beat of her own drum?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this question – and we’ll take this discussion further in a post later this week. What’s been your experience – do you look for someone just like the current leader, or someone very different – why?


Paradoxes to Inspire

John Ward
John Ward

I recently re-read an essay written some time ago by a 4th generation family business leader, Mrs. Antonia Ax:son Johnson of Sweden. In her essay – in part a “letter” to her children – she reflects on several paradoxes:

The entrepreneur’s drive to seek “both the controllable and the uncertain” are “the incompletable forces that made the company grow.”

“Think ahead and be prepared to deal with any unexpected situation that suddenly crops up.”

“We are living in a paradox: [the need to have] perspective – our ability to take the long-term view, both forward and backward.”

“If everything can be changed, nothing has lasting value.”

The more we reflect on successful people and successful family firms, the more we see and appreciate the fascinating paradoxes of life.  Thank you, Mrs. Johnson.