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The development and implementation of shared leadership in multi‐generational family firms

John James Cater III (Department of Management and Marketing, Nicholls State University, Thibodaux, Louisiana, USA)
Robert T. Justis (William W. and Catherine M. Rucks Department of Management, E.J. Ourso College of Business Administration, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA)

Management Research Review

ISSN: 2040-8269

Article publication date: 21 May 2010




The purpose of this paper is to better understand the development and implementation of shared leadership in multi‐generational family firms. Shared leadership or family top management teams involve multiple family members in the top management and ownership of family firms.


A qualitative case study approach was employed, using in‐depth interviews of the top managers of four family businesses. Each case was analyzed separately, and emergent themes found in each case; and then generalizations were made across the four cases in the cross‐case analysis.


Eight factors or conditions were examined that affect shared leadership in multi‐generational family firms according to the respondents – long‐term orientation, close communication and shared understanding, resistance to change, succession planning, failure to release control, reporting relationship confusion, increased decision time, and higher decision quality. The result of this study is the production of eight propositions to build theory concerning shared leadership, which is an under‐researched area for family business studies.

Research limitations/implications

This paper is rich in qualitative detail, but with all such case study research, its limitations regarding sample size are recognized.

Practical implications

This paper views shared leadership as a growing phenomenon that incumbent family business leaders should consider as a viable alternative to primogeniture or the choice of a single successor.


The study described in this paper is groundbreaking in that it examines shared leadership or the development and implementation of top management teams in family firms in depth and detail. The paper contributes a balanced view of the implementation of shared leadership in family firms, exploring both the positive and negative aspects.



Cater, J.J. and Justis, R.T. (2010), "The development and implementation of shared leadership in multi‐generational family firms", Management Research Review, Vol. 33 No. 6, pp. 563-585.



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