For family-owned businesses to realize their true potential, effective leadership is a must. Business owners are aware of this, so they place a lot of attention on who is going to be the next leader and rightfully so. This brings us to the role of “family champion,” a different breed of leader, but one who is not to be underestimated.

The family champion is a visionary catalyst who pours their energy into the family business’s structure to build an ironclad framework, one that strengthens the core fabric of the family business. As a “catalyst,” this person is a source of energy and inspiration. They are behind the cultivation of the best owners and leaders for the family enterprise, directly establishing the “family advantage.”

Rising to the Occasion

There are the traditional leaders who run the day-to-day operations of a business, and there are the ones who help the family members grow into their roles in the family enterprise. These leaders are not designated by the earlier generation. Instead, they grow and emerge on their own; their role as an influencer is naturally assumed. As a different kind of leader, their motivation is to find unity and bring the family business to the next level.

These individuals often emerge in the third generation as the family grows in size. Sometimes, they feel that leadership is waning, so with a vibrant sense of passion, they take it upon themselves to engage the family and drive the family business forward. This strong sense of obligation builds credibility and trust among the other family members, who see this person making a positive impact.

In every family, each member has a different personality and these traits can often be observed in early childhood. Some family members will emerge as natural-born leaders while others will be followers. As the family champion comes into their own, others begin to rally behind him or her because they can see this person plays a vital role in the family business.

Much like a family patriarch or matriarch, this person pushes others to their full potential, which is their intention. As a valuable influencer, they work side-by-side the leaders of the business to ensure the family members and the family enterprise are moving toward the same goals.

Qualities of a Family Champion 

By their nature, family businesses are vulnerable to family conflicts, which is why the family champion seeks to improve the family’s communication patterns. Instead of allowing the family to engage in disputes over texts or emails, this person picks up the phone or arranges in-person family meetings to diffuse situations and directly address people’s concerns.

This individual pays close attention to the communication cycle, and commits to resolving negative dynamics from earlier generations so history does not repeat itself. Their role is to ensure each family member feels heard during formal and informal meetings, and that all parties arrive at sound, mutually-beneficial decisions.

What are the characteristics of a family champion? 

  • They are respected and credible.
  • They usher in a new era of family relationships.
  • They ensure all family members are heard.
  • They are looked to for guidance.
  • They have complementary leadership skills.
  • They have a strong sense of purpose.
  • They are dedicated to helping others succeed.
  • They are accountable and transparent.
  • They draw upon their professional experience to do their work.
  • They demonstrate a keen ability to improve the family’s communication. 

This special leader doesn’t come out of nowhere. Through their professional training and experience, they climb the leadership ranks. They gain trust and credibility through their hard work and dedication to the company’s success. This person develops their attributes over time and frequently takes advantage of ongoing educational opportunities to improve their capabilities and they encourage others to do the same.

Developing a Collective Vision 

Effective leadership is critical to the success of a business, but it often involves multiple leadership roles. Since it can be difficult for the success of a business to fall on one person’s shoulders, businesses with a family member who takes it upon themselves to help the other family members excel are at a distinct advantage.

The family champion sees the need to create a long-term vision for succession and they’ll develop a plan to help the family achieve it. They’ll sit the family down and help them articulate what they want as a group. They’ll ask questions like:

  • Where do we want to be in 10 years?
  • Do we want to sell the business?
  • Do we want to pass the business to our children? If so, how are we going to accomplish that goal?
  • What can we do to make the business bigger and better?

By working with family members from different generations, this person gets everybody engaged in building the future. Individually, they’ll lay out educational opportunities with family members and as a group, they’ll engage in continuing education, seminars, workshops and the like. This family member works in conjunction with the business leaders to help get everybody aligned around the owners’ vision so the family can achieve their goals with all obstacles removed.

While the family champion is driven to see to it that individual family members succeed in the business, they do their best work when assisted. And one of the best ways for business leaders to empower family to increase their potential is to enlist a business coach.

At AdviCoach, we help build thriving business families by helping the members embrace their unique, complementary roles. Learn how we can help your family business by contacting us today.