Sometimes, Leadership Means Letting Go

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.”
– Hermann Hesse

For a strong-willed person who has put their heart, soul, sweat and tears into building a business, the hardest part can be handing the reins over to your successor. After all, you know every piece of the business, often having created it with your own hands and continual networking.

 For those who are taking up the torch, it can be difficult to carry forward if the company pioneer is not ready to let go.

Yet, there is so much to win by passing the baton to the next generation so they can run the next leg of the race. Building trust through communication is key to that transition.

I grew up with the old saying “It’s my way or the highway.” That outlook carried on in some business transactions as we continued to do certain things the way they had always been done. Without a healthy conversation about the pros and cons of each approach, we just did not talk about other options.

Likewise, many entrepreneurs who have built a family business struggle to relinquish dominance without even recognizing the risks that come with holding on to old ways of doing things.

That is not to say that those approaches don’t have value. It is possible that the next generation doesn’t understand why systems were set up the way they were. Your successor may not realize the history between you and your prized suppliers and – vitally – how it impacts pricing and delivery.

Communication would clear that up quickly.

On the other side of the equation, a younger successor may have a greater understanding of a new market niche based on changing demographics. Until that person can make a case to evolve a business that way, the founder may remain in the dark to its potential.

This goes even deeper into issues of financial and estate planning. Unless money channels are openly discussed, there is great risk in the younger generation being ill-prepared to carry on the family business or wealth.

What better way to ensure their success than by sharing information and advice to set them onto a road for success. Isn’t that your goal for raising your children or mentoring your second in command?

Some generations find it uncomfortable to talk about their wealth or even their retirement or death. This taboo blocks the ability for an open dialogue that leaves both sides better informed.

Trust only comes when you know where the other person is coming from and why they feel that way. Unless you’re psychic, you’ll have to exchange those details in writing or in person. Only then can wealth and a family business smoothly transition from one generation to the next.

That is the key to building the next generation to lead the family business. Not by controlling and judging, even via those subtle cues you may not realize you are sending, but by recognizing that the next branch of the family tree can reach much further.

Founders just need confidence and belief to do it, without being subconsciously held back by the ways “we have always done things.”

If you are at this point in the race, I can help you ease that transition. Having a neutral person to guide the hand-off – and all the emotions that go with it – sets the business up to be more competitive for years to come. Then both the founder and the successor win!

Leave a Comment