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Myths and Mortals: Family Business Leadership and Succession Planning (Wiley Finance) Hardcover – July 7, 2015
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“It is a slim but fascinating book” (Forbes, October 2015)
“Who is it for: Next gens, or indeed anybody who wants to understand the big beasts in business dynasties and what makes them tick” (Business Family, February 2016)
From the Inside Flap
Establishing yourself as a leader, developing credibility, and building authenticity is a challenge for any new leader. This challenge is amplified for family business successors growing up in the shadow of legendary leaders. Myths & Mortals analyzes the tried and true strategies for success employed by some of the world's most well-known successors through interviews with Bill Wrigley Jr. (The Wrigley Companies), Christie Hefner (Playboy), Massimo Ferragamo (Salvatore Ferragamo), John Tyson (Tyson Foods), Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger (Taittinger Champagne), and many more.
Credibility is a virtually unmatched commodity in business. This is particularly noteworthy when a family-owned business transitions to the next generation of leadership. The magnitude of success and "greatness" creates the shadow and makes it difficult for a family business successor to live up to the enormity of their parent. Credibility is absolutely critical, but it can be difficult to obtain because of opinions and assumptions of the new leader being unable to measure up to their predecessor or their inability to unlock the balance between honoring the past and forging a "way forward" that is true to the new leader's voice, vision, and style.
Myths & Mortals offers potential heirs to familyrun businesses, small business owners, business leaders, entrepreneurs, and wealth managers, among others, a deep dive into succession and leadership strategies and practices that can have a huge impact on the company's success and legacy of the family. The key is to create a sense of renewal and to balance leading with fresh, unique ideas, while honoring the principles of past success. Written by Andrew Keytinternationally known business strategist and succession planning expertthe book outlines approaches to identify the realities of the parent's business approach, assert oneself into the existing legacy, push the limits of the company to address changing trends in effective leadership, and chart one's own course to take the business into the future. This is no easy process, and a one-size-fits-all approach or solution simply doesn't exist.
Myths & Mortals explores relevant and critical topics such as earning one's own reputation, the importance of continual growth and development, successful leadership mindsets, leading with authenticity, living your values, and the valuable learning experiences born from failures and mistakes.
Virtually any reader will be able to relate to the challenges of establishing one's own credibility, identity, and confidence in the business world. Readers will benefit from the experiences of other leaders like them, who created effective visions and employed authentic leadership to bravely usher their family businesses to new heights.
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As someone who advises a Family Business Club and teaches “Family Business Management” to grads and undergrads, I found Andrew’s book to be a valuable resource for me, my students and next generation business leaders.
Andrew interviews highly regarded successors whose stories are candid and honest. The variety of interviews include a broad and appealing diversity of backgrounds, industries and experience levels in a fascinating pedagogy such that students can see their own situation in parts of each story told.
Specifically, two themes in the book are helpful for young, impressionable and eager successors as they plan to develop their own unique leadership style: 1) how to build internal and external credibility, and 2) how to build generativity in ways that are relevant to self, family and business. The book offers successors a robust tool set on these themes, one that helps them discover their own unique self.
While so much of the family business field is focused on how to get the current generation to let go, it’s important not to overlook another challenge that’s just as important: how to help the next generation let go of the need to replicate the success of their predecessor. “Respect the past,” says Bill Wrigley in the book, “but always do what’s best for the future.”
Thank you Andrew for all your hard work and research, and for publishing such an important resource for the next generation of family business owners and leaders. And thank you to the successors interviewed in this book for their confidence, generosity and vulnerability – your stories and lessons are profound and will help generations of family business successors for years to come.
Dr. Carol Wittmeyer
Associate Professor of Management & Family Business Club Advisor
St. Bonaventure University, NY
Keyt, the Executive Director of the Family Business Center at Loyola, has not only an MBA, but also a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, and in Myths and Mortals, he clearly demonstrates a deep understanding not only of family systems theory, but deeper psychological issues that are central to becoming an effective leader.
Keyt’s book is based on a qualitative study he conducted on 28 family business leader successors, who ranged from the second generation to the eleventh generation. Their companies ranged in sales from $20 million to multibillion dollar companies (Tyson, Wrigley and Amway). While this book is based on solid research, Keyt writes in a way that the stories of these successors come to life.
Instead of a shallow look at the myth of the leader, Keyt addresses how dangerous it can be for the next generation to not unpack the myth and see their parents as human beings that have strengths and weaknesses. He explores that when parents encourage their own heroic myth, the child cannot work their various feelings of disappointment that every child experiences, which in many ways are often more prevalent in families where a parent is absent to respond to the demands of running a business. Subsequently the adult child who holds onto an idealized myth cannot adequately separate and become who they truly are. Additionally, it can create a more entitled and narcissistic leader who cannot accept their vulnerabilities and weaknesses. These more narcissistic leaders subsequently lack the ability to become an authentic leader, and in family businesses, which can lack systems of external accountability, this becomes extremely dangerous.
Keyt weaves together a thoughtful blend of Murray Bowen’s family systems theory with a deep understanding of developmental psychology. But this isn’t a dry tome about theory; instead these well-written stories of the second-generation family business leaders illustrate these deeper truths about what it takes to lead a family business when one lives in the shadows of a larger than life mythical parent.
I highly recommend Myths and Mortals for anyone interested in understanding the psychological requirements of effective leadership and especially for any family member contemplating succeeding their parents in their business.