One could imagine that every small family firm has their particular habits when knowledge sharing, especially when the success (or failure) of the business relies on effective communication.
A recent study published in Family Business Review analyzes the different leadership approaches to knowledge sharing, and we are pleased to welcome one of the authors, James Cunningham, who reflects on the foundation and findings of the research. The paper, entitled “Perceptions of Knowledge Sharing Amongst Small Family Firm Leaders–A Structural Equation Model,” is co-authored by Claire Seaman and David McGuire. From Cunningham:]
Family firms are known for the unique ways in which they view and run their business. This has led many to believe that firms with a family influence behave differently to their non-family counterparts. While a lot of research focuses on the many implications of this difference for the economic impact family firms, in terms of strategi
c direction, longevity, etc., we were more curious to know how the influence of family impacts what it is like inside the firm.
In this respect, knowledge is increasingly becoming the most important internal resource for a competitive organisation in the contemporary business environment. Integrating and exploiting the knowledge of people in the business has become one of the key activities of the modern business leader. The impact of leadership on how the firm manages knowledge is long established in the broader management literature, but our instincts would tell us that family firms will have their own way of approaching and managing knowledge. In this article, we uncover the different leadership behaviours played out in small family firms and how these behaviours are related to the leader’s perception of knowledge sharing in the firm. Essentially, we ask the question, does family influence help or hinder the development of a knowledge resource?
Unsurprisingly, we found a variety of leadership behaviours employed by family firm leaders. We present a choice in how the family firm views its knowledge resource. We suggest that a greater level of family influence implies more guidance-based leadership when it comes to knowledge. Knowledge here is considered a quality the family leaders have, which must be ‘distilled’ to other organisational members. While, the alternative is a participative approach to knowledge in the firm, one more accepting of input from others, but with the potential to reduce family control.
This choice of leadership approach is important for family business leaders to consider, as there are important implications for the development of their knowledge resource. We see these findings as part of a research direction which moves away from viewing family firms as a homogenous group, subject to the overbearing influence of family. Instead, we present the behaviours inside these organisation as choices, and these choices at the most basic level represent the business intentions of family firm leaders.
Never miss new research published from FBR; sign up for email alerts through the journal homepage.