How successors can develop credibility

By Andrew Keyt

To truly step out of the shadows and into leadership, a successor must develop external credibility. Successors earn other people’s respect when their reputation is built upon their performance, character and hard work (instead of wealth and the family name as a source of power).

Here are ways for successors to step out of the shadows of their parents and into the light of their own leadership:

1. Earn it! As a successor, you’ll likely have to work twice as hard as non-family members in order to be credited with the same level of success.

2. Deal with failure. The idea that failure is not an option is pure fiction. Failure is simply part of the job; it’s necessary. Through failure, you develop your own experience and “gut instinct” for the business.

3. Develop your own sense of what’s right. It’s tempting to try to repeat what Mom and Dad did, or to make decisions that you think will make them happy. But to be successful over the long term, you must pave your own way for the future. Develop your own instincts and your own sense of right and wrong.

4. Strive for continuous improvement. In order to step out of your parents’ shadow, you must constantly work to become a better leader. Take executive education courses, sit on other company boards and keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your industry. Do whatever you can to build a better understanding of yourself, your business and your industry.

5. Remember the importance of family. Listen to family members’ concerns and make sure that everyone is aligned in their values and vision for the future. This is essential to your success in leading the business into the next generation.

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