By Andrew Keyt
YOU ARE THE successor of a family business, destined to follow in your parents’ footsteps. As part of your fate, you must suffer the
Successor’s Curse, a powerful enchantment
that causes people to question your leadership. Your decisions will be scrutinized, you’ll
constantly be compared to your parents and
people will believe that your good fortune is a
result of your last name. While the Successor’s
Curse is an unavoidable inheritance, learning
to stand apart from your parents and establish
your own credibility can break the spell.
There are two distinct sides to your credibility: internal and external. Internal credibility is belief in yourself. When your real self
closely aligns with your ideal self, you have
high internal credibility. External credibility is
when other people (employees, customers,
suppliers, your parents, etc.) believe in you.
When self-perception closely aligns with the
way others perceive you, you have high external credibility.
In order to strengthen internal credibility,
you’ve got to ask the big question: How do I
develop a deep sense of belief in myself? Get
clear about your career, your company and
your life’s values and vision. In other words,
picture the ideal you: Who is this person, and
how does this person want to lead? Clarity
around what you’d like to accomplish in the
future and how you measure success will
motivate you to pursue your goals and ulti-
mately build credibility.
It’s important to continually check in with
how the real you is measuring up to the ideal
you. Sometimes the two are closely aligned,
but sometimes the real you needs help catch-
ing up with the ideal you. Successful succes-
sors do this in several ways, including:
• Receiving regular feedback (through
360-degree assessments and mentoring).
•Understanding themselves better
(through personality inventories like Myers-Briggs, DiSC and Hogan).
• Gaining additional and complementary
experience in other organizations.
• Creating a learning plan.
• Listening to executive coaching.
You will be risking failure, but working
through failure builds internal credibility as
well as resilience.
The two big questions to ask in regard to
strengthening external credibility are: How
do I inspire people to follow me, and how do
I build trust with the people I lead? For starters, let your performance do the talking. If
you want people to follow you, they need to
have proof that you’re a capable and credible
leader. You’ll probably run into some skeptics,
but if your track record is solid, then their
doubts are baseless.
Another way to boost external credibility:
Communicate clear expectations for your
people and hold them accountable. A culture
of accountability will go a long way to culti-
vate respect for you as a successor.
Also, be genuine when showing your
commitment and respect for others. Care is
reciprocal. If you show your people you care
about them, they’ll reflect the same care back
to you. It’s a simple and inspiring truth that
can unify people around your leadership.
When things go right, share the success.
When things go wrong, take responsibility.
In order to establish true credibility, you
must learn to do what’s right, not what’s popular. As a leader and decision-maker, you’ll be
tested; opposing forces will try to pull you in
different directions. “Do I please my parents?
My employees? My shareholders?” Try not to
let these questions distract you; doing what’s
right means having a vision and sticking to it.
When it comes time to make a critical decision, lean on this vision; it will point you
down the right path.
While it may not be easy to succeed your
parents, believing in yourself (internal credibility) and earning the support of others
(external credibility) will break the Successor’s
Curse and help you become an exceptional
leader in your own right. C
Andrew Keyt ( andrewkeyt.com) is the author
of Myths and Mortals: Family Business
Leadership and Succession Planning
(Wiley, 2015; not available at Costco).
Establishing credibility as the family business successor