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You don’t have to look very far to find tips and strategies to help build business leadership skills. When it comes to family businesses, the family CEO is often floundering, knowing that the role he/she plays is vital to combining family with business yet receiving little or no help in building the skills needed for the role or choosing strategies. This leader often works quietly behind the scenes and without him/her, families begin to drift apart.

The family leader, often a parent in the first generation of the family business, has strong facilitation and communication skills, convinces people to work together, is capable of developing trust and really keeps it all together. When business and family leadership is passed to the next generation, the family leader role is also passed, generally to a sibling and thus, the role needs to adapt to a new model where siblings recognize and respect “one of their own” in this role.
“What long-lasting business families understand is that just as you have to plan for business leadership succession, you also have to plan for family leadership succession.” — John Ward

Functions of family leadership include:

  • Keeping channels of communication open
  • Nurturing people
  • Making sure everyone in the family is treated fairly, of possible
  • Seeing to it that traditions and ceremonies are attended to
  • Reinforcing values
  • Acculturating new in-laws to the family and the business
  • Making certain that younger family members are educated about the business
  • Providing moral cohesion
  • Serving as mediator
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