THE CHALLENGE OF INHERITING “POWER-ABILITY”

Posted by: chacko on Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

The entrepreneur who starts and grows the business has learnt , through the school of experience , how to acquire power; to manage power and to cultivate power. This power is then used to manage his business in its cycles of growth, consolidation and further growth .

However, founder successors acquire power by virtue of their ancestry. They are “born powerful” . They know , and others know, that it is their grandfather’s business. They are born with rights – and unfortunately, sometimes forget that they are also born with “obligations”.

When Henry Ford checked into the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York , late one evening, having missed the last flight to Detroit , he was immediately taken to the Presidential suite . He complained, because he had just wanted a single room for the night as he was leaving early the next morning . “Your son always stays here when he is in New York” said the General Manager to Mr Henry Ford . Quick came the response, ” My son has a rich father ; I don’t !”

However , it is not easy for children to remember that they have also inherited an obligation, beyond the power and wealth . Daniel Vasella , Chairman of Novartis, described the concept of leadership very aesthetically and very simply when he said that a vineyard owner pointed to a stone wall and explained how his grandfather had started building it, then his father added to it, and so did he. Vasella found this a fascinating analogy . He compared it to the building of a great cathedral which was not built in one generation.

There are several implications in this statement for inheritors in family business . First, you are not here to take advantage, but to ADD. Second, you will not finish . Third, it is important that the overall vision is shared by several people – both family and professionals, over time . Beyond the first generation it is difficult to understand and imbibe these implications. Pelf and power are taken as a right, when one is born in a golden cage.
Some entrepreneurs will try and correct this inbuilt failing, by getting their children to begin careers on the factory floor. To an extent, it does help .But their co-workers all know that this is a short training period and they will be rapidly moved up . They deal with the ” trainee” with deference because they know one day , he will be the boss.

Other entrepreneurs will ensure that their children work for some other company ( unrelated) for many years before doors are opened to the parental company . They can then demonstrate that they have earned their spurs in a ” neutral ” environment , and therefore they deserve a place at the “high table “.

It is said that some achieve greatness; others strive for greatness; still others have greatness thrust on them . It is the same with power . Those in the second generation onwards, generally belong to the third category – and if they are sincere and disciplined , they can move to the second and then to the first category.

When third generation Ford ( there was an absence of a Ford for some time ) came back to Ford as CEO, and the Ford factory in New Orleans was wiped out in a major fire disaster, Ford was among the first to fly in to see how he could help. Seeing the tearful faces all around, he promised that he would see that the factory would be reconstructed and work resumed , so no one will lose their jobs. He emerged as a hero . A Ford from Ford had shown concern and empathy. He had used Power positively – power-ability !

Ford had added his contribution to the building of the wall!

First Published in Tharawat Magazine.

Topics: Blog

 

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