What are Corporate Family® Systems?

One of the more frequently asked questions the LEADon team receives is “What exactly do you mean by Corporate Family®?” On the surface, this question makes complete sense—after all, isn’t family a term reserved for our personal lives? And how could family have much to do with most companies—unless it happens to be a family-run business? So exactly what are Corporate Family® systems?

The answer actually begins in the late 1980s and early 1990s when Dr. Steve Wilke was working on his degree in Clinical Psychology. At that time, he studied under Dr. James Framo, a renowned expert in Family Systems and Family-of-Origin Theory. It didn’t take long for Dr. Wilke to recognize the importance of viewing people not simply as individuals but also as members of a larger unit. By the late 1990s, he integrated this framework into his leadership development principles, helping organizations grow and develop into higher functioning Corporate Families®.

As we describe in our book, Corporate Family Matters, leaders in any organization function quite similarly to parents in the family unit: guiding, making decisions, correcting, and training up the next generation. And all members of the Corporate Family® relate like siblings, sometimes with the natural rivalries that most of us are familiar with in our own personal families.

Over the past fifteen years, the team at LEADon has applied Dr. Wilke’s Corporate Family® Systems approach in our work with every business and team with which we interact. The results? Most leaders and their respective teams immediately relate to this unique perspective about their organization. They’re also quite eager to know more about the unique nuances of a Corporate Family® System—including the importance of intergenerational relationships, Family-of-Origin issues, and legacy/succession planning as part of future success.

Just like our personal families, the Corporate Family® is always in flux. Yet understanding the components of Corporate Family® Systems will not only improve how your current family members relate and interact, it will also allow your team to function at higher levels of efficiency for years to come. At LEADon, we believe this is definitely a legacy worth striving toward!