Family business advisors, accountants, lawyers, bankers, financial planners, behavioral science types, and insurance professionals are all leaders when it comes to serving family business clients.
Let me explain.
Parker Palmer quotes Václav Havel in a chapter from Leading From Within: Out of the Shadow, into the Light: “[A]nyone in a position of power over others is a leader in the broadest sense of the word and, therefore, has a duty to take on the accompanying responsibilities.” In the case of family business clients, professionals must take on the responsibility of self-examination and growth.
If you think about Havel’s admonition to take responsibility for our own consciousness lest our involvement create more harm than good, we are compelled to look into our souls and move to a deeper understanding of our inner experiences. For instance, each of us has a family of origin that influences our perspective, interventions, and the advice we share with clients. The more we understand these influences, the more caution we can exercise against projecting our own experiences onto our clients.
Palmer comments on this idea: “Great leadership comes from people who have made the downward journey through violence and terror, who have touched the deep place where we are in communication with each other, and who can help take the rest of us to that place. That is what great leadership is all about.”
Those of us who work with family businesses must reach deeply and systematically inside to better understand our own experiences and the effect these have on clients. As Palmer says, we must “create light out of shadow.” He offers five shadow areas and the “gift” of reflection.
For professionals who work with family business clients, it is important to have the courage to confront these shadow issues. Whenever possible, they can be explored in workshops, continuing education seminars, or interdisciplinary study groups, and professionals can examine and discuss the ways they can manage their shadow issues. In the process, we can support each other by bringing light rather than darkness to our clients.
Tom Hubler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is president of Hubler for Business Families, a family business consulting firm.