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Succession, in real life: how family firms avoid backstabbing tensions

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D on and Lewis Ledingham, a father and son from Edinburgh and London, are “huge, absolutely addicted” fans of the TV programme Succession, the final episode of which will screen this weekend.

Which is not to say they take many lessons from Logan Roy and his cut-throat clan for the running of their own family firm – a leadership development consultancy, appropriately.“In our business, we talk about the balance between warmth and edge,” says Don, 65. “As a leader, Logan predominantly lives in the world of edge – which is just the focus on success – but has very little warmth, which is that compassion, empathy and appreciation of others.”Business leaders should have the humility to recognise that they “know nothing”, he says, which may be why, earlier this year, Ledingham Sr offered his 32-year-old son the position of co-CEO of the company.Stepping back can be a challenge for any business leader, he says, because having your own firm is “great fun”. “But undoubtedly, this will be part of our succession strategy.

This is not a long-term place, but we’re finding it a very good bridge from me being [sole] chief executive to the future where he takes it on.”Handing over the family firm doesn’t have to be done the Roy way, which is not to say there isn’t potential for dynastic tensions as the younger generation supplants the older.

Rufus Sanders was a disaffected language teacher when his father told him he planned to sell the specialist footwear shop he had founded close to Piccadilly Circus in London.As a younger man, Sanders, now 49, says he had “always held [the family business] at arm’s length, not wanting to be associated with it.

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