Date posted: March 18, 2015

Leadership is an overused word in many respects but that is only because it is so important in determining the future success of any business. Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes and with so much written about it by far more qualified people than I, it will be from a family business owner’s perspective that I will concentrate on.

In the public company world CEO’s come and go, stamping their authority, making sweeping changes before moving on to other pastures. They are allowed to concentrate on the short term position because like politicians, before too long they are gone. No one really remembers these high flyers except perhaps to make comparisons to the new person with their head on the block.

Family business leaders by definition are different, they have to be. They don’t necessarily have to be nice or liked, but many are and that is why a lot of people choose to work for family businesses over public companies and the public sector for that matter. Leadership in a family business tends to emanate those found in many families, caring and nurturing their employees and in turn the majority of employees tend to be more sympathetic back, knowing the pressures of the job, particularly financial ones are more personal, given it is the owner’s money on the line. This is very different again to that of shareholders in the bigger corporate and I believe this garners respect. Family business leaders are generally paid well under market value, taking their rewards in the form of dividends when they are able to be paid.

With the average tenure of a family business CEO’s being 17 years, being around for the long haul means their decisions will also be around for a long time. In the main these decisions are made more quickly because they don’t have to go through the layers of a hierarchical organisational structure. This nimbleness is a strength in the sense that it means the business can get on with what it needs to do but it also means that there is no hiding either; the leader and their decisions are more exposed.

Of course many family businesses these days are led by non-family management, so as not to be confused with the public company CEO or the family run business owner we need to put the non-family managed business in a third category all on its own because they are different again. This group tends to be a hybrid of the first two with the smart ones taking the benefits of the family business culture and then adding the professionalism so often needed in order to take the business to the next level.

Family Business Australia will be exploring this topic further with two dynamic and diverse business leaders, Patria Jafferies (CEO of Celebrate WA) and Sarab Singh (RTO Solutions) at the upcoming Leading Lights Breakfast Next Wednesday 25th March. With a combined business experience of over 50 years they will share valuable insights and knowledge on strong and effective family business leadership. Don’t miss the chance to register.

Andrew Mostyn is the Executive Director of the Craig Mostyn Group, a diversified food and agribusiness employing over 500 staff across Australia, conducting business on a regular basis with over 60 countries.