New Manager

How to prepare future leaders

Naveen Khajanchi | Updated on May 27, 2014 Published on May 27, 2014

Family patriarchs must open doors and allow custodians of the business to learn on the floor



There comes a time in every business when its custodians or leaders need to take a step back and hand over the reins to their successors. This, no doubt, is a tough decision to make as the future leader should be someone who will not only preserve the goodwill and culture of the company and ensure its smooth running, but also infuse the enterprise with fresh perspectives and innovation for further growth and development.

Most family-owned businesses today find it difficult to survive after the founder passes away. We have seen so many global business empires going down for decades. It’s mainly because he/ she comes with a do or die attitude and wants to make the best of the situation. These people have survived odds and done something meaningful as they know there is no looking back. It’s taboo to even talk about succession planning as it does not get into their head easily. Maybe they like the feeling of being indispensable. We need a next gen of passionate leaders who have pride in their work but leave their ego at home and genuinely care for other people around them.

Comprehensive training

To ensure that the future of a business is entrusted in able hands, future leaders need to be identified early on and comprehensive training needs to be provided to enable them with the right skill set and decision-making acumen. Talking about familybusinesses in this context, future leaders are invariably from the younger generation of the family, who are, in most cases, largely in tune with the working of the business and are likely to have been part of business discussions taking place between their father, aunts and uncles from an early age. .

A common trend to be observed in such businesses is to send the youngsters abroad for higher education and, once they return, place them in key positions of responsibility in the family business. While staying in a foreign country away from home has its own positive takeaways — making an individual more grounded and independent — it only makes up for a small percentage of the entirerigorous learning experience. Much before that the seeds of learning have already been sowed by storytelling and discussions at home about how things were handled.



The real lesson begins when a person returns to join the organisation and begins to understand the various complexities involved in operating a business. A good on-boarding is what comes handy at such times; it may involve sending them to work elsewhere in a similar environment and allowing them to interact with other professionals. A CEO, CMD or other head of the organisation needs to have an indepth understanding of the entire gamut of operations and must be able to ensure that all of them work in tandem to produce the best possible results. This does not come from sitting on the gaddi (owner’s chair) from day one but from diversifying one’s experience and learning on the job.

I still believe that as parents we need to walk the talk of values and help our children survive in all situations with their values intact. I still use public transport quite frequently to keep myself connected with reality. As a matter of fact till date we have refrained from buying cars on EMI as my father says it’s not business-related expenditure.

Survival instinct

Family patriarchs must open doors to allow future leaders to circulate in different departments and roles to get them to learn on the floor to discover their strengths and uncover their blind spots. Ensure that they commit themselves and spend significant time with the line responsibilities given to them. In work there is nothing small or big and one has to do what the business demands and yet keep a balance.

Temperament, other than skill and capabilities, is also an important determinant for a leader. Cousins were always encouraged to share and play together. This instilled team spirit.

Children are encouraged to always have a strong survival instinct and to develop that they are constantly put into tough situations. It is said that the chairman of one of the largest groups left his son stranded in a foreign country and wanted him to reach his destination on his own. This was done to ensure the scion possessed the ability to think practically even in a stressful situation.

It is commonly said that leaders are born, not made. While innate business ingenuity does greatly determine a person’s capability as a leader, it is only half the job done.

The other half involves experience, hard work and willingness to learn, which will only come when an individual is given a fair chance to truly explore his/her strengths and weaknesses through guided, hands-on learning; and that is what ultimately makes a promising future leader. There is an old saying that without dying you cannot reach heaven and it’s so right, one has to experience the good and the bad to learn.

(The writer is an executive coach, author and family business advisor to leadership. He is the author of ‘Evolutionary Leadership, a Holistic Perspective’.)

Published on May 27, 2014
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