PODCAST: Unraveling the World of Family Businesses

Professor John Davis joins the YPO Brazil podcast “Extraordinary Leaders.”


In this exclusive episode, Prof. Davis shares his extensive experience and knowledge of the unique challenges and opportunities that surround family business management. Through an in-depth conversation, they explore topics such as the importance of planned succession, family dynamics in the business environment, and how businesses can thrive across generations.

In addition to practical tips for entrepreneurs and successors, Prof. Davis brings inspiring stories and valuable insights into leadership in the family context.

Hear the full podcast here >


WEBINAR: How to Build a Team of Owners in Your Family Enterprise

MIT Sloan faculty John Davis and Deborah Ancona discuss why building an owners team is crucial, and what makes an owners team strong and effective.

Given the critical role and contribution of owners in the long-term success of a family enterprise, it is important that the owners remain a strong, unified, and capable team. This requires deliberate effort, especially over time and across generations as the ownership group grows larger and more diverse and complex. MIT Sloan faculty John Davis and Deborah Ancona will discuss why building an owners team is crucial, and what makes an owners team strong and effective.

Equip your family enterprise with the tools and knowledge to cultivate a united and resilient owners team for lasting success. Learn more from Davis and Ancona during their course: Future Family Enterprise: Sustaining Multigenerational Success Future Family Enterprise: Sustaining Multigenerational Success.

Key takeaways:

  • Why capable owners—especially active owners—are a key advantage for family businesses
  • The qualities of a strong ownership team and how they are developed
  • The challenges and practices of building a cross-generational team of owners in your family enterprise

PODCAST: Systemic Investing:
A conversation with John Davis and Jason Jay

A podcast conversation with John Davis, Chairman and Founder of the Cambridge Family Enterprise Group and Senior Lecturer in Family Enterprise at MIT Sloan and Jason Jay, Senior Lecturer and Director of the Sustainability Initiative at the MIT Sloan School of Management. In this podcast, John and Jason discuss systemic investing. 

In this podcast, Jason and John discuss Jason’s year of researching and discussing systemic investing with the FFI community.



More Information >


From Family Director Pathos to Board Ethos: Managing Multiple Role Identity Struggles in the Boardroom of Family Firms

Originally appeared in Wiley Journal of Management Studies  – 8-13-2023



The literature indicates that the board of directors exists to provide resources and strategic direction (service task) and monitor top managers (control task), often tending to overgeneralize board tasks. Using a unique sample of 36 elite family firm directors having served on 615 boards with an aggregate 1447 years’ experience, and integrating interview and secondary data with observations, we capture how the multiple role identity struggles experienced by family directors are managed in the board. Our data indicate that effective boards resolve multiple role identity struggles (i.e., family director ‘pathos’) through the mechanisms that boardroom structural forces trigger and the resulting bridge and buffer tasks enacted (i.e., board ‘ethos’), going beyond the traditional service and control tasks.


Research centres on the prevailing notion that boards of directors exist to perform service and control tasks (Forbes and Milliken, 1999), implicitly assuming that these two tasks are universally executed by all boards. In this paper, we argue that the situation is more complex and variegated than previously thought (Huse, 2018). Scholars following a behavioural governance approach have begun to recognize the importance of the behaviour of organizational elites, seeing governance as going beyond the mere pursuit and control of individual actions (Westphal and Zajac, 2013), conceiving ‘elite conduct as occurring not in a social vacuum, but rather in a socially situated context and by individuals whose interpretation of the context is itself socially constructed or constituted’ (Westphal and Zajac, 2013, p. 608).

In parallel, a growing body of research stresses that individuals carry multiple, often overlapping, and blurring role identities (Ashforth, 2000). A key challenge for individuals and the groups in which they operate is to manage their multiple role identities (MRIs) (Sundaramurthy and Kreiner, 2008). Research stresses that the MRIs of individuals are important predictors of behaviour (Ramarajan, 2014), acknowledging that this is also true for boards of directors (Golden-Biddle and Rao, 1997; Hillman et al., 2008; Withers et al., 2012). In this vein, research adopting a behavioural approach has examined identity tensions in boards (Golden-Biddle and Rao, 1997), considering the role of management and directors (Garg and Eisenhardt, 2017) and other characteristics linked to identity tensions, such as demographic aspects (Westphal and Milton, 2000), functional background (Tuggle et al., 2010), and leadership positions (McDonald and Westphal, 2011).

However, while the behavioural approach to governance recognizes the importance of understanding directors’ MRIs as shapers of board behaviour (Van Ees et al., 2009; Westphal and Zajac, 2013), much less attention has been paid to directors’ MRI struggles (i.e., when directors hold multiple role identities with divergent meanings and expectations), how such struggles emerge (i.e., become visible in directors’ decision-making approaches), and how they are managed (i.e., how MRI struggles are brought to convergence). This is a pressing issue for at least two reasons. First, because boards of directors are considered the highest authority of firms (He and Huang, 2011) whose effectiveness depends on how directors’ multiple identities are understood and managed (Hillman et al., 2008). Second, as MRI struggles can cause distress and anxiety (Burke and Stets, 2009), understanding how these are managed is important in order to offer concrete suggestions to individuals on how to nurture the creation of an ecology of identities and avoid the negative effects of identity struggles (Ramarajan, 2014).

Read the Full Article Here >



WEBINAR: Family Enterprise:
Latest Strategies to Build Value Across Generations

Is your family growing the value you want to be building?

Learn from MIT’s family enterprise experts about the two latest trends that help families build value (of various kinds) across generations, particularly in this era of rapid change and global uncertainty.



MIT Sloan faculty John Davis and Jason Jay discuss their latest insights on two emerging trends: how an owner strategy and systemic investing are being put to use by families to grow value, develop family talent, and build family unity across generations.

This webinar is especially relevant for the owners and leaders of family enterprises and family offices who want to stay ahead of the curve and gain new insights about family enterprise success.

Key takeaways include:

  • Why family enterprises need to pivot their value-creation strategies, given today’s turbulence
  • How families are putting to use two strategies to build value: an owner strategy and systemic investing
  • How your family can make use of these strategies in your family enterprise or family office
  • The latest thinking on family enterprise out of MIT
  • Information about the upcoming Future Family Enterprise program

Learn more from their course: Future Family Enterprise: Sustaining Multigenerational Success


WEBINAR: Current Family Business Challenges: A Live Q&A


February 1, 2023

Today, family business leaders and owners face some of the most challenging and high-stakes decisions seen in a generation.

How are YOU navigating the complex decisions that your family enterprise faces? Let’s dig into them together in this important conversation—a Q&A with Professor John Davis.

Learn more from Davis during his course: Future Family Enterprise: Sustaining Multigenerational Success.



WEBINAR: Family Business Success Today: Beyond Operations, To Ownership

MIT Management Executive Education
November 15, 2021

This is a new era for family businesses. To succeed in this turbulent period, family businesses must adopt new practices at not only the operations level, but also at the ownership level.

Professor John Davis explores the owner perspective, owner-level decisions, and how to architect governance to make these strategic decisions for the family business and family assets.