Greeks elected a new prime minister last week, Kyriakos Mitsotaki, who is also the son of a former prime minister.  His ascent as leader of Greece offers a valuable Lesson Found for family businesses.

Mr. Mitsotaki’s election is the culmination of his path into the “family business”.  He is the fourth generation of his family to hold this office including a great-great-uncle, Eleftherios Venizelos, who is described as “maker of modern Greece”.  This lineage certainly eased his path but also leaves his capacity to lead vulnerable to skepticism. Reports on Mr. Mitotaki’s need to increase confidence in his leadership using terms similar to those that you might hear of a son or daughter taking over the family business.  These include questions about if “he is up to the task of leading” and that “he lacks competence to deal with the complexities” of governing Greece.  This despite having a strong résumé including three degrees from Stanford and Harvard and a distinguished business career.

The catalyst for this week’s Lesson Found is the reception to Mr. Mitsotaki’s election.  Preparations for the next generation’s eventual succession to leadership need to be mapped out and documented in a development plan.  (And this development plan becomes an integral element of a comprehensive succession plan.  But that is a topic for a future discussion.)  The purpose of this development plan is twofold:  1. Prepare the next generation for leadership; and 2. Prepare stakeholders for this change in leadership.

The first purpose is self-evident and includes skills specific to the company’s needs as well as over-all leadership skills.

The second purpose, preparing stakeholders, is more ambiguous. These “stakeholders” of course include staff.  But they also include customers, members of the family and others with a financial stake in the company such as bankers.  Methods to prepare stakeholders overlap with those for leadership skill development.  The distinction lies in the transparency of the process.  For example, the successor should work his/her way up through the organization while being managed the same as other staff.  In addition, the job description for all leadership positions should include qualifications and expectations and should apply even for members of the family.

While the complexities of running most companies do not approach those Mr. Mitsotaki faces, ensuring that the family business’ next leader is recognized as being prepared will ease his/her transition into the top spot.

What steps are you taking to prepare the next generation for leadership?

Life brings us lessons every day.  Sometimes from expected sources.  And sometimes from sources and situations we never would have thought possible.  Either way, they are a gift found. I am fortunate to find these types of lessons regularly and wanted to share them with you with this weekly series of “Lessons Found”.
Did you recently receive the gift of a Lesson Found that has helped you with management, marketing or another aspect in business? I would love to hear about it. Comment below or send me an email to let me know.