There is only one chapter of the award-winning series Succession, broadcast by HBO Max, to discover who will be chosen to take the baton from the patriarch, Logan Roy, at the head of the media and entertainment emporium Waystar Royco. In Business we have asked four experts in management and leadership to bet, just before that last episode is screened, which of Roy's four children – Connor, Kendall, Siobhan and Roman – would be the most appropriate to replace him following the canons of management.
Because this story of 39 chapters, spread over four seasons, throws multiple management lessons in the family business. And almost as many stabs as in their day made the protagonists of the Falcon Crest series famous. In fact, the professors consulted use Succession, based according to many experts on the vicissitudes of the media empire of tycoon Rupert Murdoch, in their classes. To begin with, one of the lessons of this television series is that the toxic leadership of the father, whose style is narcissistic – it is based on fear and greed and has not been able to separate the figure of the owner and that of the chief executive – will lead to a toxic leadership of the children. who try to emulate him at all costs, explains Gerard Costa, professor at Esade.
This teacher bets on Kendall as future CEO of Waystar Royco. Roy's second descendant is the candidate to seize power for three of the experts consulted. Only Guido Stein, a professor at IESE, opts for the tycoon's only daughter, Shiv.
"Kendall is the best manager. He is the only one who seeks collaboration and who tries to reach agreements, with his own brothers, with the directors and with the shareholders of the company, "says Costa. In his opinion, the succession pools are limited to Kendall himself, Shiv and Roman, since Connor (the eldest son) is not in the competition for power by staying outside the decision-making bodies of the company to focus on his political career. The three candidates are characterized by exercising a little exemplary leadership of narcissistic component like their progenitor. Everyone is insecure, and in the case of Kendall, who is a great strategist, this insecurity makes it difficult for him to move from theory to action. He does not have the charisma of his father, but in the last projected chapter of the series, Costa continues, he has reaffirmed his leadership when he replaced his brother Roman in the speech during the funeral of the father.
Shiv is, for Guido Stein, the favorite at the head of the Waystar Royco group because she is the smartest of the four, has character, is not dominated by the father and has previously worked in politics. However, the writers have never considered her successor — even if her father lied to him when designating her at one point in the series — because Roy is a macho leader and has permeated that vision throughout the company. To fight this isolation, she has become cunning and manipulative, but she lacks the support of board members and her own siblings, says Cristina Cruz, director of Business Families at IE University. As if there were few arguments in this patriarchal vision of the company, Shiv, in addition, arrives pregnant at the peak moment of the election of the successor.
Finally, Roman is the most insecure of them all. His character makes him explode to the minimum. He is also the one who thinks in a more heterodox way and looks for new ideas. He has ambition and pride, but his flaws blur his virtues. His lack of emotional control, his vulnerability and his way of firing employees arbitrarily detract from his credibility in the company, although he reaches the last episode with the position of CEO, a position he shares with his brother Kendall.
"The successor is going to be Kendall, who looks more and more like the father. And it's sad because he should look for his own leadership style instead of his father's despotic one," Cruz says. For the IE University professor, the real problem shown in the series is to propose a race for succession, with which only a war can be unleashed between the brothers, something that is repeated in many family businesses, which are more than 80% of the companies that exist in Spain. "What you have to do is create the next team of owners and learn to share that role. I speak of business transition, not succession, which leads to war," he adds. Cruz emphasizes that a strategy based on distributing shares equally and electing a single leader is doomed to failure because the brothers will have to make decisions together and will not be able to agree if three lose and only one wins.
Miguel Pardo, president of Vistage Portugal, adds that the key to the smooth functioning of family businesses is to have the power structure divided, so that it is clear where the ownership, investors, board of directors and management committee are. "For the family business to survive, it is essential that the founder is placed at the head of the board of directors and away from management," he says. Something that, according to the data handled by Cristina Cruz, in Spain do at least half of the large family businesses, but from which the small ones are still far away.
This expert believes that the process of business transition in the sagas – which, according to Guido Stein, after the achievement of profits is the second most important thing in a company of this type, although it is rarely done well because parents insist that their successors continue to lead the company – must be completed in four phases that can last between five and ten years. And they have to be assessed to avoid problems as happened in the succession process of El Corte Inglés, by which Dimas Gimeno was appointed president without capital supporting him. Shareholders eventually boosted his cousin Marta Alvarez. The first phase is to move from the individual dream of each family member to a shared vision; The second involves defining the roles, rights and responsibilities of each one and then moving on to planning the transfer of leadership and, finally, the transfer of ownership.
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