Only one chapter of the award-winning series is missing succession, broadcast by HBO Max, to discover who will be chosen to take over from the patriarch, Logan Roy, at the helm 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 according to the canons of management.
Because this story of 39 chapters, spread over four seasons, sheds multiple management lessons in the family business. And almost as many stab wounds as in their day made the protagonists of the Falcon Crest series famous. In fact, the teachers consulted use succession, based according to many experts on the vicissitudes of the media empire of tycoon Rupert Murdoch, in his classes. To begin with, one of the lessons that this television series teaches is that the toxic leadership of the father, whose style is narcissistic —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, a professor at Esade.
This teacher bets on Kendall as the 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, opted 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, Shiv and Roman himself, since Connor (the eldest son) is not in the competition for power by staying outside the company’s decision-making bodies to focus on his political career. The three applicants are characterized by exercising leadership that is not very exemplary with a narcissistic component like their father. 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 final episode of the series, Costa continues, he has reaffirmed his leadership when he replaced his brother Roman in the speech at his father’s funeral.
Shiv is, for Guido Stein, the favorite to lead the Waystar Royco group because she is the most intelligent of the four, she has character, she is not dominated by her father and she has previously worked in politics. However, the writers have never considered her to be her successor —even though her father lied to him when designating her at one point in the series— because Roy is a macho leader and that vision has permeated the entire company. To fight against this isolation, she has become cunning and manipulative, but she lacks the support of the members of the board of directors and her own siblings, says Cristina Cruz, director of Business Families at IE University. As if these were few arguments in this patriarchal vision of the company, Shiv also arrives pregnant at the peak of choosing her successor.
Finally, Roman is the most insecure of all of them. 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 the way he fires employees arbitrarily undermine his credibility in the company, even though he reaches the last episode with the position of CEO, since he shares his brother with his from him Kendall.
“The successor is going to be Kendall, who looks more and more like his father. And he is sad because he should look for his own leadership style instead of the despotic of his parent’s”, Cruz expresses. For the IE University professor, the real problem that the series shows is proposing a race for succession, with which you can only unleash a war between the brothers, something that is repeated in many family businesses, which are more than 80 % of 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, ”she adds. Cruz emphasizes that a strategy based on sharing the shares equally and electing a single leader is doomed to failure because the brothers will have to make decisions together and they will not be able to agree if three lose and only one win.
Miguel Pardo, president of Vistage Portugal, adds that the key to the proper functioning of family businesses is to have a divided power structure, making it clear where the property, the investors, the board of directors and the 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 the management”, he affirms. Something that, according to the data handled by Cristina Cruz, in Spain at least half of the large family businesses do, but from which the small ones are still a long way off.
This expert believes that the business transition process in the sagas —which, according to Guido Stein, is the second most important thing in a company of this type, after achieving profits, 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 must be appraised to avoid problems as occurred in the succession process of El Corte Inglés, for which Dimas Gimeno was appointed president without the capital supporting him. The shareholders finally promoted his cousin Marta Álvarez. The first phase is to move from each family member’s individual dream to a shared vision; The second involves defining the roles, rights, and responsibilities of each one to later move on to planning the transfer of leadership and, finally, the transfer of ownership.
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‘Succession’: which of Logan Roy’s children should lead the company? Leadership experts say