The purpose of this study is to better understand the development of successors in the family business and their approach to the leadership of the firm. Foundational concepts in the family business literature and leadership literature are reviewed. I propose an integration of leadership theory into family business studies. I examine the reasons successors join the family business, the successors development from follower to leader, differences between founders and successors, and the leadership qualities of successors. A case study approach is followed, using a mixture of qualitative interviews and a survey questionnaire, the Organizational Leadership Assessment.
Six family businesses are described in detail, including an air conditioning wholesale company, a pest control company, an automobile dealership, a printing business, a funeral home, and an air conditioning service company. Reasons for successors to enter the family business include expectation, convenience, opportunity, and closeness to family members. Successors move through the stages of student of the organization, low level manager, top manager, and finally owner. I identify five areas of differences between founders and successors, including business environment concerns, company changes, ownership complexity, and two internal differences regarding entrepreneurial activity and business risk approach. Important leadership qualities for successors include the need for "hands-on" technical knowledge, the importance of long-term orientation, the need for a spirit of cooperation among family leaders, and the relevance of servant leadership. I provide eight propositions for encouraging the next generation to join the business, five propositions to encourage the development of successors, two propositions to understand the differences between successors and founders, and two propositions to understand the leadership qualities of successors.