The Great Family Leadership Challenge - Ownership

The Great Family Leadership Challenge - Ownership

Tips and Techniques

In these fast-changing times, there has been a great emphasis on the need to create direction and set guidance for organizations navigating through today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment. And the call for leadership has become more important, and more prevalent, than ever. The same is true for our families.

As Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner define leadership, it is the “art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations.” As we look into family leadership, it is critical to re-examine what that means within the context of this definition. How have we been mobilizing our families to fight for and strive toward a shared aspiration? In my interviews with parents, it has been interesting to observe that most have yet to consider their family values and vision. This is in stark contrast to what we do in organizations where we revisit our mission, vision, and values in company retreats on a routine basis. With the need to focus on the mundane duties of taking care of household matters and raising children, many parents seem to have forgotten that they need to create a common shared aspiration, taking charge and leading their children toward its fulfilment.

Consider how, if we change the context, we might address this scenario within an organization. What happens when we identify a potential flaw or lack of supervision within a process or a team of people? Do we tighten processes and look at how we can improve our management of the situation or team? Are we quick to respond and review our leadership over the situation?

Why is it easier to play the role of a leader in a work environment but not at home? I’ve realized that the key difference is ownership. In the marketplace, our ownership is measured and rewarded. In the marathon we run in our families, the end is rarely in sight with the everyday duties and responsibilities clouding the original intent of why we wanted to have families in the first place.

So, the question is: How can we grow in ownership as leaders of our family? Let us reflect on three fundamental actions we can take:
  1. See the potential in the family
    Leaders see the potential of others before they often come to believe in themselves. It is easy to criticize and find fault. However, it takes great courage, humility, and intentionality to recognize the contributions and potential of our family members. One of the greatest flaws we have when working with people close to us is that we often take them for granted.

    Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but closeness makes the eyes grow duller.
    People like to know how they have contributed and how they can be useful moving forward. And as family leaders, we need to be able to encourage their hearts and recognize their contributions.

    What do you see in your family members? 

  2. Empower and enable family members to be part of the team
    Leaders help their constituents make choices, grow in competencies, and develop commitment to a cause. It is important to encourage others with words, but it is more important to empower them through actions. In our day-to-day interactions, are we allowing all members of our family to make value-based choices that help them become better versions of who they are every day? Or, are we so focused on fire-fighting to get by each day with the littlest of fuss?

    Empower others in Choice…Competence…Commitment
    The process of empowering others is spelled T-I-M-E. Being patient and taking the time to work alongside family members creates opportunities for them to see themselves as part of the team and disarms any defenses that may exist. We need to be mindful, however, not to hover as this can create defensive emotional walls.

    How are you guiding your family in making values-based choices?
  3. Accumulate small wins
    My coaching experience with C-suite executives and senior management teams confirms what The Leadership Challenge research has documented: the key to developing the confidence and momentum required to achieve desired end goals is through small wins. The same can be said of families. Remember to celebrate that little step our family member takes.

    A little step may be the beginning of a great journey.
    The journey ahead may look daunting and tiresome, which is why it’s so important to accumulate small wins that will continue to move our families forward. We need to consistently take note of the effort others are putting in that is contributing to our collective success. 
Success in creating a sense of ownership among all family members takes practice—much like mastering The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership®. Championship-winning athletes put in hundreds of hours of practice to hone their craft. They work tirelessly to create muscle memory so that their bodies are able to be in a state of flow when required. The concept of family ownership can be likened to a muscle—the more we exercise it, the more we will be performing at the optimum level of our leadership.

Family leadership is an exciting journey. And like all journeys, it is inevitable to have ups and downs. So, as we pack and prepare for this adventure, remember to pack in ownership—as the family is a conscious choice we make to have.

Melvin Chia is a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge® and founder of MPLIFY, a leadership and talent development consultancy that has worked with organizations across Asia Pacific, including Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. He has trained and developed more than 150,000 people in The Leadership Challenge since 2009 in various industries, from finance and hospitality to education and entrepreneurial start-ups. Married and the father of two boys, he is passionate about creating societal changes by bringing leadership development from organizations to the community. He can be reached at or connect with him at



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