Family, business and power:
illustrating three extreme cases
cole de relations industrielles, Universite
al, Canada, and
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to illustrate how small family business (SFB) leader-founders
exhibit a dominant logic of action over less dominant prevailing ones. The authors investigate three
logics of action: family, power and economic.
Design/methodology/approach – An exploratory qualitative research is conducted based on case
studies. The authors use Cisneros and Genin’s conceptual model, to identify, through an iterative
sampling frame, three extreme SFB cases where in the first the leader exhibits a dominant family logic,
in the second, a dominant power logic and in the third, a dominant economic logic.
Findings – The authors illustrate the characteristics of the SFB leaders when they exhibit a dominant
logic of action and also present some of the implications of SFB leaders’ dominant logics of action on
the SFB and the family and non-family members.
Research limitations/implications – The three extreme case studies provide an important
building block for future studies based on larger samples of SFBs. However, the authors’ results
cannot be generalised due to the exploratory nature of the study.
Practical implications – The paper highlights the importance, for practitioners and researchers
alike, of being able to diagnose when SFB leaders use a dominant logic of action. The paper also
accentuates the need for a greater awareness of logics of action in training programmes for SFB
leaders and for consultants who work with those leaders.
Originality/value – The concept of logics of action has never been previously empirically applied to
large, medium or small family businesses. The paper highlights the relevance of identifying dominant
logics of actions in SFB leaders.
Keywords Mexico, Family, Family firms, Leadership, Management styles, Management power,
Small family business, Impact of family dynamics on management behaviours, Logic of action
Paper type Research paper
Several scholars acknowledge that leaders who found, own and manage family
businesses influence the latter’s culture, values and performance (Schein, 1983; Lussier
and Sonfield, 2009). These leaders are considered more intuitive than professional
managers, since they are highly visible and are more willing to pursue non-economic
objectives and pay attention to family ties (Schein, 1983). Furthermore, family business
leaders do not only impact their businesses while they are managing, but they can
continue to do so after they are retired (Kelly et al., 2000) or even after they pass away
(Le Breton-Miller and Miller, 2008; Lussier and Sonfield, 2009). Additionally, since the
1980s studies have highlighted that family business leaders are, consciously or
unconsciously, influenced by different systems (Sharma, 2004). Tagiuri and Davis
(1982/1996), for example, argue that all members of a family business – leader or
otherwise – are driven by three “subsystems”; namely the ownership, company and
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Journal of Family Business
Vol. 2 No. 1, 2012
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