Succession: How To Stop It Being a Royal Pain!


The Man Who Would Be King

History buffs will recall King Edward VIII who abdicated the English throne in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson, the woman he loved. While his action has often been seen as a romantic gesture, it could also be seen as the reluctance of a next generation leader to take over a role he never wanted.

While the British Royal Family is a lineage, the members often refer to it as the “Family Business” and in many ways, it is. A “Family Business” is one that was established by an earlier generation and then passed down, usually from father to son, although more daughters are now getting involved.

What happens, however, is that the original love and motivation for starting the business gets diluted with each generation and the desire to keep the business going often dilutes as well. However, at the same time, later generations want all the perks of the business—including wealth, prestige, honor etc.—but none of the everyday grind of the business. Obviously, this creates a great deal of conflict and makes for at best dysfunctional transfer of leadership, and at worst the complete collapses of the family business and potential legacy.

For example, Mortimer. “Morty' started out as a small-time owner of a store that catered to farmers. Over the years, he developed his business into numerous stores, dealing, not with family farmers, but with giant corporations. His son, Paul, grew up watching the business explode and shared his father’s joy and passion for large-scale farming. Then Paul's son, Alex, comes along and while Alex isn’t as excited about seeds and crops as his dad and granddad, he assumes the mantle of leadership and keeps the business chugging along. But then great-grandson Jason arrives. Jason isn’t the least bit interested in farms or farmers. He wants to be a musician. However, he does like wealth and power that comes from the business so he is torn. Does he continue to run the business, so that he can have the perks, and do music on the side? Or does he leave the family business and pursue his own dreams?

Now remember that the original business was the result of Mortimer’s dream. But over time, the dream was replaced with duty and obligation, so it’s no wonder Jason isn’t over the moon about seed crops. It’s not his dream and therefore it doesn’t excite his passion. And a passionless leader spells the death knell for a Family Business.

All Family Businesses eventually face this crossroads eventually: to continue the business for the sake of the business or to allow the next generation to find its own passion.

So what’s the answer?

Creating deep emotional bonds between the generations.

When members of a family business are deeply emotionally bonded to each other and the firm’s purpose, it’s much more likely that the next generations will be ready and willing to assume leadership. As proof, let look back at the Royal Family we opened with. Edward, who was a bit of an outsider by all accounts, was willing to abandon the crown. On the other hand, Queen Elizabeth II, who was deeply bonded and emotionally attached to her father, who succeeded Edward as King, has stuck by her duty to become the longest reigning monarch of modern times. Her own bonds to her son, Charles, and her grandson, William, have assured that the “Family Business” of the monarchy will have a successful transfer of leadership for many many more years.

Now it's your turn…

Does Your next Generation leadership Have a Deep Personal and Emotional Bond to The Previous Generations Leaders or The Originating Purpose of Your Organization?

When a member of a family business are deeply and emotionally bonded to each other with firm purpose, it's far more likely that the next generation will be ready and willing to assume the leadership role.

I trust that you found this article valuable. I look forward to your feedback and comments. Please share, like and comment below!

With gratitude,

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One of Inc. Magazine’s Top 100 Leadership Speakers to hire, Dov Baron is a leadership advisor to the United Nations (UN), a bestselling author, the world’s only Corporate Cultural Momentum Strategist, and a top-ranking podcast host. He is also the leading authority on Authentic Leadership, and Leadership Succession or, as he prefers to call it, “Full Monty Leadership.” Try his Authentic Leadership Matrix for free: