• January 19, 2022

Leadership Offers Growth Opportunities for the Family and Enterprise

Sharing leadership within a family enterprise isn’t easy. It requires leaders to share power, influence, and complimentary skill sets, while also “playing well” together to navigate the boundaries among roles as family members, owners, board members, and executives. If done right, it can be a competitive advantage for your family’s enterprise as it spreads leadership across the shoulders of multiple family members and thereby reduces dependence on any one leader.

In our experience working with a wide range of family enterprises, we have seen several situations in which shared leadership has been impressively successful. We’ll look at two examples of how families evolved and leveraged shared leadership roles and then explore the key attributes, leadership opportunities and advantages that this collaborative effort provides.

Case Example 1: Coordinated Corporate and Family Governance
CEO and third-generation family member Mike Gordon has successfully led the business in significant growth and expanded into new market areas. As the business grew over the years, so did the family ownership group and its expectations. It now included 23 people across the second, third, and very young fourth-generation members.

On top of his concerns about this large and diverse ownership group, Mike also learned of some rumbling among one branch about wanting increased dividends or perhaps an ownership exit. Recognizing the importance of meeting or exceeding owners’ expectations, Mike realized that he couldn’t manage the business and lead all the discussions amongst family. He began to make a push for increased organization and leadership focused on the family-owners to address their concerns and align their goals. In turn, the Gordon family learned that their complexity and unique needs required shared leadership to address all their challenges and take advantage of the opportunities of being a family enterprise.

Fast-forward five years later: the Gordon family has a high-functioning family council with an excellent leader, Julia (who has never worked in the business itself). Mike and Julia communicate on a regular basis to share information regarding how the business is performing and to provide updates on the various projects of the family council. Shared leadership in this family consists of business leadership and family governance leadership working closely together to coordinate their efforts on behalf of the business and owners.

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