Raymond L. Wheeler

Musings about leadership


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Make a Difference! Lead Like a Servant


web versionHave you ever had something you wanted to say that you knew had the potential of changing the game? Have you been so convinced of its significance that you were willing to put it to the test of review, the discipline of systematic research and reflection, and the vulnerability of distribution?  Then you understand the passion of writing a book with the hope that it will amplify your message and your communication capacity. I have a message for market place and non-profit leaders who want to integrate their faith and leadership best practices.

There are some very strong books on leading like Jesus. Why did I write another book? I saw something missing. The way Jesus led not only transforms the way a leader acts; it also transforms the way an organization behaves for the better. Changing the way we think about leaders and their organizations is the intent of Change the Paradigm.

Change the Paradigm: How to Lead Like Jesus in Today’s World is a clarion call to apply the concept of servant leadership to every organizational context. It is a handbook that demonstrates how the concept of Servant Leadership goes to work in the leader and in the organization. It investigates Servant Leadership through five perspectives: (1) the lens of Jesus’ call to serve; (2) the Missional impetus of the church and its foundation in a future hope made present in experience; (3) the latest insights from research into effective leadership; (4) the influence of an organization’s development on leadership practices and (5) leadership development. Servant Leadership is fundamentally a transforming perspective and composite of personal motivations that impact how the act of leading is expressed. It alters the way leaders view and value followers and stakeholders. Servant Leadership engages a personal relationship with God that changes a person’s definition of: self, ambition, values, situation, and the development of other leaders.

Change the Paradigm is available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble as a paper back or an e-book. We are working on agreements to get it into book stores everywhere in 2016. Get a jump on the crowd and order it today. It will show you how to think differently about the act of leadership.


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It’s Not About Gender!


downloadIn a literature review on mentoring for a graduate course I ran across a table outlining gender differences.  I was struck by the caricature inherent in the gender definitions offered by the author. One author illustrated the differences between how men and women approach life in a the table of traits, one representing men and the other representing women. As is typical of lists like this it seemed to reflect biases rather than insights. I find such caricatures unhelpful in illuminating what it means to be a man or woman. Bifurcated and stiff gender caricatures trouble me because I observe that typical gender differences are not at all helpful in guiding the development of men and women or of describing their capabilities (which exercises designed to define gender differences seem to perennially attempt). Rather attempts at identifying gender differences often have a toxic consequence relationally and developmentally in people’s thinking.  I described the problem elsewhere,

The social mores by which the concept of male or female is defined often create a bigger barrier to growth than a help.  The failure to differentiate between the idea of sex (the biology of what makes men different from women) and gender (the social constructs that outline what it means to be a man or woman) has led to faulty conclusions and stereotypes about what defines the ideal man or women. When stereotypes are uncritically accepted as “biblical” models of maleness or femaleness, important distinctions between men and women are lost amid either/or descriptions that fail to account for basic humanness.  The challenge to approaches that formalize radical stereo types of gender is that the rich diversity of the calling of God in individual lives is lost to the many that simply don’t fit the mold.  In other words, confident women, sensitive men don’t make the gender cut.[1]

So, what did the author propose as predictable gender differences?

Table 1: Differing Emphases of Gender[2]

Gender v Human_Page_1

Elmore declares his table to be “the primary differences between men and women in the practice of mentoring.”[3] Before I go on I should note that I am not targeting Elmore specifically rather I use Elmore as an example of an error that Fine points toward when it comes to identifying gender differences.  In Fine’s view the role of culture and socialization has a far greater impact on how we define gender than our genetic makeup. It is this impact that Fine emphasizes and the fact that research or observations like those of Elmore, start with biases about gender so that popular writing seems to use neuro-research or one’s own observations as a way to reinforce sexism and not uncover deeper insights into the male and female mind.[4]

The question that arose in my mind is do we regularly interpret data about male and female behavior with a biased lens that inhibits us from seeing any results outside our expected stereotypes?  To address the question I put together a questionnaire that asked men and women to idenfity which of the characteristics named by Elmore they felt best described themselves. The questionnaire simply listed Elmore’s traits and asked people to decide which traits they were most like using a five point Likert scale. The survey is non-scientific.  I did not validate the traits nor did I have a valid sample group. The participants were self selecting based on an open invitation which did not assure that the sample group I used was random. I had 25 participants (9 male and 16 female). The ages of the participants ranged from 30 to over 60 years of age.

Having provided the disclaimer which simply is to say what results I record are interesting but may not reflect the general population – I will never-the-less question the observations characterized in Elmore’s work.

When reading the following charts it is important to know the scale respondents used. The Likert scale I used was: 1, very much like me; 2, somewhat like me; 3, neutral; 4, not much like me; and 5, not at all like me.

Chart 1: Female Respondents

Chart 1

Chart 1 record the gender roles assigned by Elmore to women (the red line) and the self selected characteristic of the women who responded to the survey (the blue line). Notice in Chart 1 that Elmore’s contention that women are more feeler than they are thinkers was not at all supported by what the women in the survey said about themselves. The median score on the “thinker” characteristic for women was 1 (i.e., very much like me). The raw scores ranged from 1 to 4 (i.e., not much like me).

Similarly results contrasting relational focus to results focus were not as distinct as Elmore observed but much more nuanced. Women agreed that they are relationally focused (mean score of 1, very much like me) but also claim to be definitely results focused (mean score of 2 i.e., somewhat like me). The high individual score on results focused was 4 (i.e., not much like me).  On the empathetic versus problem solving descriptors Elmore’s observations were flatly wrong to the small sample I surveyed. The margin of error for the holistic v categorical items was significant as well among the women who responded to the survey. So, how did the men do?

Chart 2: Male Respondents

Chart 2

The male respondents demonstrated that they were much more feeler oriented than Elmore implied and much less categorical. The median scores show a fairly inclusive set of character traits with median scores of 2 (i.e., somewhat like me) on the: relational focused, results focused, communicator, doer, detail oriented and empathetic scores. Like the women, the men simply did not correspond to the holistic versus categorical score in any significant way.

Chart 3: Male and Female Respondents

Chart 3

The differences highlighted in Chart 3 between men and women are extremely nuanced in this sample and do not correspond with Elmore’s ideals.

Here’s my point, trying to decide who you are by the use of gender differentials is about as futile an exercise as can be engaged. What may be more helpful is to use characteristics like those identified by Elmore as simply personality characteristics that may be exhibited by men or women. Viewing oneself as a unique person with unique capabilities and unique perspectives and characteristics gets rid of the nuisance created when we try to make the differences between men and women something other than differences in sexual identity. Does this mean that unique perspectives or ways of seeing are not evident between men and women?  No. Fine contributes two important observations:

If hormones determine the roles, one would expect to find the same sex occupying the same roles in all societies. This is patently not the case.[5]

…Genes don’t determine our brains (or our bodies), but they do constrain them. The developmental possibilities for an individual are neither infinitely malleable nor solely in the hands of the environment. But the insight that thinking, behavior, and experiences change the brain, directly, or through changes in genetic activity, seems to strip the word ‘hardwiring’ of much useful meaning….we should ‘view biology as potential, as capacity and not as static entity.[6]

We simply cannot force people into a stereotypical behaviors that make them men or women. We cannot make whether a person is a man or women the criteria for ability. It is far more a matter of personality and inherent cognitive ability. I illustrate the challenge of trying to define set gender roles in the following:

I often ask students in my leadership courses to make two lists. On one side of a sheet of paper I ask them to write out descriptions of what it means to be a man.  On another side of the paper I ask them to write out what it means to be a woman. Typically they describe men with adjectives such as: strong, confident, firm, forceful, carefree, aggressive, bossy, sarcastic, rude, feeling superior. They describe women as: patient, sensitive, devoted, responsible, appreciative, timid, weak, needing approval, dependent, or nervous. After we discuss the observations they have made I ask them to return to their lists to identify adjectives that apply to Christ.  To the astonishment of my students they highlight all the positive traits they identified as male and female i.e., Jesus is patient, strong, sensitive, confident, devoted, firm, responsible, forceful, appreciative, and carefree.  What does this mean? Was Jesus confused about his gender identity or are our categories fluid and inaccurate?  Since there is nothing in the gospel record to suggest Jesus ever demonstrated any question about his sexual identity it is safe to assume that our ideas of appropriate gender behavior are more fluid than they are rigid. When gender stereotypes are interpreted as rigid and worse when this rigidity is described as “biblically” rooted both men and women suffer in their sense of identity.[7]

Conclusion

Men and women both can find a new sense of identity and confidence in being themselves, unique, gifted, wired like Jesus. Understand your own emotional being to exercise self-awareness and a sense of the impact you have on others. This is a far better path to self-definition and understanding than charts like those illustrated in Elmore’s work. Again, it’s not about gender it’s about personality.

[1] Raymond L. Wheeler. Change the Paradigm: How to Lead Like Jesus in Today’s World. Maitland, FL: Xulon Press, 2015, 115.

[2] Tim Elmore. Mentoring: How to Invest your life in Others.  Atlanta, GA: Equip, 1998, 42.

[3] Elmore, 42.

[4] Cordelia Fine. Delusions of Gender: How our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference. New York, NY: W. W. Norton and Company, 2010.

[5] Fine, 127.

[6] Fine, 177-178.

[7] Wheeler, 118.


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Define Your Ambition!


Ray at summitWhat is it that you want to accomplish? How clearly can you state your ambition? Ambition defined is as an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment.

Ambition has a bad rap with many and for good reason. There are those whose ambition for power, prestige, or pleasure has made them into users and abusers of people.

But does the abuse of a trait by some make it negative in every instance? Can ambition be good? I argue that ambition is imperative. It helps people clarify their goals and purpose and live/work with focus and impact. Jesus, the master leader understood the power of ambition and its potential for abuse. Consider for a moment that Jesus often asked people directly and indirectly to clarify their ambition.

Jesus’ questions intended to elicit honesty about what his listeners really wanted. In addressing the crowds about John the Baptist Jesus asked, “What did you go out to see?” He queried their deepest desire – people didn’t go to see John because he was eccentric, they went because he offered hope for change. In confronting religious leaders on the tyranny that resulted from their dishonest ambition Jesus told a story about two debtors both forgiven their debts. Then he asked, “Which of [the two debtors] will love him [the creditor] more?” The answer exposed these leader’s warped self-centered ambition. When approached by James and John who requested positions of prominence in Jesus’ kingdom Jesus asked, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?”

Jesus’ response refocused the ambition of James and John. Jesus did not rebuke their ambition – he shaped it and showed it to be misdirected. The question any leader faces is whether they will come out from inside themselves to be as honest as James and John about what they are really after. Ambition exposed can be shaped, challenged, encouraged, or redirected. Ambition hidden only warps, deceives, tyrannize, and suppresses others. Have you been honest about your ambition? Are you willing to allow God to reshape and redirect it? Like James and John honesty will result in a much larger commission than their original ambition was able to conceive. God will “blow you mind.” Go ahead, expose and submit your ambition to God and see what God does in you.


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How Do you Measure the Health of Your Christian Organization?


10931217_10205220733576419_4977262972998137073_nHow do you measure the overall health of your Christian organization? In this presentation I discuss the correlation between spiritual awakening and mission. Inevitably understanding spiritual vibrancy leads to a different way of assessing organizational health. This presentation was made at the Great Commission Mobilizer Summit for the Student Volunteer Movement 2 (SVM2). For more of the speakers and for the power point that corresponds to my presentation below go to http://www.svm2.net/special-events/gcsummit/gcsummitresources/. Cut and past the following link into your browser to access the mp3 file.  http://www.svm2.net/Correlation_between_Spiritual_
awakening_and_missions.mp3.


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Change the Paradigm


51Pv2jzHD3L._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_The title is ambitious I admit. But, the way we think about leadership and express it in the church and in business needs a change in my view. I wrote this book because I see the possibility of unleashing something radically life changing by altering the way we lead. Why? Uncritically adopted leadership styles often promise efficiency and effectiveness but they just as often fail to address the challenge – congregations and businesses feel compressed, threatened, and lost in the radical shifts occurring all around them.  At worst churches and Christian organizations act no different from any other corporation in how they relate to their employees and their members.

Jesus changed the formula of leadership – he initiated a hope that is transforming and healing and not oppressive and disillusioning. This book is a blue print for how to lead like Jesus and produce extraordinary results. I am committed to being a part of a changing paradigm of leadership. Its my hope that writing a handbook on how to put a new perspective to work encourage a new conversation and a different way of leading.

Here is what those who reviewed the manuscript had to say about.

“…well written, organized, and amazingly detailed…Ray writes in an intellectual tone that doesn’t come off as arrogant or stiff, but rather uplifting and humble.” Editorial Team, Xulon Press.

“…challenges my paradigms on being a leader…. I wish I had read earlier on in my leadership experiences.” Steve MorganGlobal Leadership Development, CRU

“…elegant and powerful.  I don’t read Christian books on leadership. They just don’t have the content. But your manuscript is new and needed I could not put it down.”  Mark Simmonsbusiness entrepreneur,Seattle, Washington.

“…a must read for anyone seeking increased effectiveness leading an organization through a holistic approach aligned with Scriptural principles.”  Jim J. Adams, President, LIFE Pacific College

“…profound, practical and prophetic in its impact. I believe it can shape a culture that can change the world!” Glenn C. Burris, Jr., President, The Foursquare Church

“…will transform how you engage others. Dare to apply Ray’s assertions…they will change your life…from the inside out.” Dennis Bachman,Executive Pastor. NewSong Church, San Dimas, California

“This Book will take you to a place you were not expecting to go – the transformation of your own heart.” Casey Cox, Pastor, Living Faith Fellowship, San Dimas, California

Pick up a copy today at:

Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/Change-Paradigm-Raymond-L-Wheeler/dp/1498440169/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1436281607

Barnes & Noble, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/change-the-paradigm-raymond-l-wheeler/1122227562?ean=9781498440165


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Did God Say? When Your Sense of Destiny Surpasses Your Resouces


Moses burning bushHave you ever faced the tension of growth in your organization – that uncomfortable realization that (1) you are out growing your current resources; (2) that God has stirred your imagination and summoned you to a larger capacity faith and sense of destiny; and (3) that there is no clear way to step from where you are to where you see your organization will be? I have a friend that is in just this situation.  His organization has outgrown their current facilities, outstripped their fundraising, and expanded beyond their current administrative structure. It’s what every leader hopes for and then freaks when they see it happen.
It is normal to freak out over an expanding sense of destiny – that summons from God to take part in a work that requires God’s participation to carry out.  Moses freaked out in Exodus 4:1 after hearing God give him a new sense of destiny, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say?  For they may say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.'”  Joshua doesn’t freak out after the death of Moses although in giving Joshua his destiny vision God repeatedly tells him to be strong and courageous. (Joshua 1:1-9)  However, after his defeat at Ai he freaks out, “Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening…And Joshua said, ‘Alas O Lord God, why didst Thou ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us?'”  Saul freaked out when Samuel told him God had selected him to lead Israel as their first king, “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then do you speak to me in this way?” (1 Samuel 9:21)  You get the point.
Somewhere between believing that sense of destiny God instills in the leader and the full evidence of that destiny lie a series of choices that test the leader’s (1) attentiveness to God’s voice; (2) dependency on God’s provision; (3) and recognition of God’s purpose i.e., it’s not about the leader.  The question driving this period of development in the leader is, what step of faith do I take?  It is easy to run ahead – a problem that ultimately disqualified Saul from being king when he panicked at God’s apparent tardiness. (1 Samuel 15) This is exactly the situation my friend is in. He needs a bigger facility, he doesn’t have the budget, and God has given him a glimpse of a future he feels compelled to act on. He is at a boundary point of development and so wrote me to ask what he should do if the building that seems right (a series of events has led him to this moment) comes open before his board can fully take up the matter.  So, I wrote him the following and I share it here in hopes that it will encourage other leaders facing the same developmental boundary.
The situation of the building and its potential is great. I suggest a simple process of discernment when the building comes open – God’s guidance is met with God’s provision.
If the two converge take it. You have guidance – a clear sense that God is expanding the influence of your organization and that influence is both direct and indirect (i.e., meeting your organization’s mission and influencing other organizations to rethink their approach to equipping and release of gifts/talents/strengths). You have made the need known to your prayer network and the board – so let’s watch the provision come in.
If the two don’t converge at the point the investment group drops out – don’t force it.  Stay connected with what God is doing. You know that direction often unfolds with events over time and that first loss many times reinforces God’s ownership of God’s agenda (v our agenda) and brings God’s people into alignment with his purposes (think Moses’ initial “failure” to secure deliverance for Israel even with God’s clear guidance).
I’m confident that God’s plan so exceeds our capacity to see and envision that if we saw the thing clearly at the front end we’d run away terrified by our own inadequacies.  So, keep paying attention to what God is doing. Realize that the capacity represented in the building is the easy part of the process – to increase the physical capacity requires a corresponding increase in leadership capacity that impacts you, the board, and to a greater degree the national/regional coordinators. God is working on the entire system.
Run forward with joyful confidence that God is – see what God can do.


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When it is Time to Transition the Family Business


starting pointThe problem – Poor Talent Management

I have a growing number of clients (privately held and controlled businesses) that have begun the transition to the next generation. In a recent Harvard Business Review a great article appeared that looks at the issues involved in succession of the family business. In research conducted by Fernández-Aráos, Iqbal, and Ritter (2015) it is clear that family owned and controlled businesses play a critical role in the global economy.[1]  However, because of poor talent management and inadequate succession planning many fail to thrive or survive.  In fact only 30% of family owned businesses last into the second generation and only 12% are viable into the third generation.[2]

The Best Led Companies

The best family-led companies do four things well: they establish a baseline of good governance, preserve family gravity, identify future leaders from within and without, and bring discipline to their CEO succession.

Governance Baseline

Managing a family business successfully over the long haul requires a clear separation between family and business – a separation that ensures that the professionals hired by the business can clearly settle their hesitations about joining a family business namely: uncertainty about levels of autonomy, hidden agendas, lack of dynamism, and the potential for nepotism and irrational decisions.  Professionals frankly want to be sure a level playing field exists in terms of future possibilities, growth, and advancement.  94% of the family owned companies surveyed by Fernández-Aráos, Iqbal, and Ritter were controlled by a supervisory or advisory board of about nine members on average.  Family representation on these boards averaged 46% in Europe, 28% in the Americas, and 26% in Asia. Good governance appears to be the first hurdle for family businesses that want to hire and retain the best people and remain competitive over the long haul.

Issues to consider.  Owning a Mom and Pop operation does not need the formal governance structure larger family owned and run businesses need.  They do need outside mentors and advisors to remain competitive. If the objective of the Mom and Pop business is to grow into a significant player in their market then a good governance baseline is a critical component.  I have seen Mom and Pop businesses grow only to provide a divestiture of businesses for their children to run – reproducing Mom and Pop businesses. The model works but not as a foundation for creating a large family run and controlled business.  What may be difficult in the divestiture model is retaining the talent that grew the business in the first place.

Family Gravity

The researchers concluded that while family owned and operated businesses need independent governance structures they also must be careful not to lose that makes them unique in their market niche.  This uniqueness is what the researchers called “family gravity.”  Every successful family owned and operated business in the research pool had one key family member (sometimes up to three) who stood at the center of the organization personifying the corporate identity and aligning differing interests around clearly defined values and a common vision. The key family members all had a common view i.e., the next generation not just the next quarter. Each of these key family members embraced strategies that put customers and employees first while also emphasizing social responsibility. It is interesting to note that these are elements of servant leadership.  While the researchers did not make servant leadership a subject of their project, they never-the-less uncovered critical attributes that differentiate servant leadership from other leadership approaches. The significance of this correlation rests in the fact that leaders who practice servant leadership out perform their peers in almost every business metric.   Fernández-Aráos, Iqbal, and Ritter contend that,

When a single family member (or a few who are completely in sync) maintains the right presence in a family business, recruitment, retention, and results clearly benefit.[3]

Issues to consider. The leadership team needs to answer six fundamental questions that will then eliminate even small discrepancies in their thinking. Realize that none of these questions can be addressed in isolation; they must be answered together. To fail to answer these questions clearly is to fail in becoming a healthy organization. Remember don’t use jargon or buzz phrases.[4]

Why do we exist?

How do we behave?

What do we do?

How will we succeed?

What is most important, right now?

Who must do what?

Finding Future Leaders

It is generally understood that the person who is right for the highest-level positions in a firm must possess competencies including: strategic orientation, market insight, results orientation, customer impact, collaboration and influence, organizational development, team leadership, and change leadership. But what Fernández-Aráos, Iqbal, and Ritter found in their research adds another important dimension – one that differentiates family businesses – values served as the acid test.  95% of the businesses interviewed by Fernández-Aráos, Iqbal, and Ritter overlapped in language used to describe their corporate ethos e.g., respect, integrity, quality, humility, passion, modesty, and ambition.  This commonality in the values held by these firms contributes to a shared vision and trust of each other. Family members evaluated executive candidates based on cultural fit above all else. So important is the concept of cultural fit that it drove a significant part of each company’s definition of development. 40% of the companies in the study included members of the next generation in their boards and committees in order to nurture their business and management skills.

The best family firms find their future leaders early and invest in them – whether they are cousins and grandchildren, existing nonfamily employees who show promise, or outsiders with no previous connection to the firm. Likely prospects are carefully brought up through the business so that when they’re ready for more-senior roles, the values and competencies match is a sure thing.[5]

Issues to consider.  Have you done the work to identify the components that make up competencies such as: strategic orientation, market insight, results orientation, customer impact, collaboration and influence, organizational development, team leadership, and change leadership? What other competencies may be needed in your unique industry. The clearer you are on what is needed in a future CEO the easier it is to create a development plan. In addition to competencies it helps to have an assessment of leadership and personality style. Often it is personality conflicts more than lack of competence that drives a leader over the precipice of failure. A good assessment helps a leader gain self awareness and assists him or her in working with people who are different.  The best led companies searched among family, internally, and then externally for future leaders.  However, they all followed the pattern outlined above in the three phases.

In my own field research I observed family owned and controlled businesses that require their sons/daughters to earn college degrees and then find employment and success outside of the family business before they are considered for executive candidacy inside. In one particular firm I looked at family members recruited into the business served in a variety of roles designed to prepare them for senior management and groomed them as potential successor CEOs.

Disciplined CEO Succession

The greatest threat to any company is a failed CEO succession. Jim Collins found that all but one of the companies in decline he studied had experience a problematic transition at the top. In one family owned and operated business I studied the CEO (son of the founder) explained one day how he had nearly driven the highly successful company he inherited into the ground.  Why?  He equated entitlement with success.  He arrived, put his feet up on the desk and commanded others like they didn’t know what they were doing. Instead of learning about the business he utilized the servers of the company over the employee lunch break to play online video games. On the verge of bankruptcy he had to come to terms with his own lack of competencies. The succession event that put him in the driver’s seat had none of the characteristics described so far by Fernández-Aráos, Iqbal, and Ritter. In contrast a disciplined succession process possesses three phases.

Phase 1: Discussion and commitment by the Shareholders.  In this phase the owner family and/or board provides a briefing on succession and an analysis of possible scenarios with the shareholders.  A shareholder workshop is held to strategize about the future and design succession processes.  The result is the creation of an ideal successor profile based on strategic goals, values, and desired competencies.

Phase 2: Candidate Selection. In this phase a list of suitable internal and external candidates is identified and evaluated.  This progresses to a short-listing and obtaining references for a select group of qualified candidates.  The desired outcome is agreement on one or two finalists and contract negotiations with the chosen successor.

Phase 3: Integration and Development of the Successor. Once a candidate is selected an agenda for the first six to 12 months is established and the top management team is selected.  After 12 months, a 360˚ feedback is conducted and, if needed, a development plan is made to meet strategic and business targets after roughly two years. This leads to a discussion and decision about renewing the CEO’s contract t when due.

The process is a highly personal one. As one of the subject companies explained,

“When we get someone in, we accompany him like a personal scout,” one family CEO explained. “A director or board member introduces him, helps him, and talks to him regularly. The know-how is transferred personally.”[6]

Issues to consider. If your company does not have a formal process it should consider creating one. In the subject companies some did find new leadership through inspiration or chance. However the research showed that CEO appointments were far more successful when they followed a disciplined search involving multiple candidates. What does this mean to a company preparing to hand off the CEO role to a son of the current CEO?  Help the son through the process outlined. Further, it is not a bad idea to have a second candidate or to be ready to search for one should the son not succeed in the role.  Too many retirement nest eggs, depending on the sale of the company to the son or daughter, disappear because of poor succession planning.

Conclusion

The conclusion of the researchers is that not-with-standing the minefield leadership decisions can be, a family business can thrive for generations if they establish good governance, preserve family gravity, identify and develop high-potential executives within the family and outside it, and bring the right discipline to their CEO succession and integration processes.  Other research by Ernst & Young, the Family Business Network, and Credit Suisse shows that large, long-standing, publicly traded family businesses grow faster than nonfamily companies, are more resilient, and outperform market returns by several percentage points. There is no reason why smaller non-publicly traded companies cannot mirror similar results if they apply the same disciplines.  Part of the question business owners have to answer is to determine what the horizon of their vision for their company will be. This is not an easy question.  It deals with issues of ultimate contribution and is determined by the degree to which owners are willing to grow their own capacity as leaders.

[1] Claudio Fernández-Aráos, Sonny Iqbal, and Jörg Ritter. “Leadership Lessons from Great Family Businesses” Harvard Business Review. April 2015: 82-88.

[2] Fernández-Aráos, Iqbal, and Ritter, 85.

[3] Fernández-Aráos, Iqbal, and Ritter, 86.

[4] Patrick Lencioni. The Advantage (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2012). Lencioni’s discussion of clarity in values and communication is must read for all family owned and controlled businesses.

[5] Fernández-Aráos, Iqbal, and Ritter, 87.

[6] Fernández-Aráos, Iqbal, and Ritter, 88.

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