Leadership & Dynamics in Family Businesses

In dealing with family businesses one is inevitably faced with numerous challenges such as conflicts, discrepancies and paradoxes. These conflicts require an enormous ability to bear conflicts and disaccord. If these challenges are successfully overcome, the business benefits immensely in the face of competition. The term family evokes an image of resource as well as one of  potential hazard. Confronting these affectively steered processes with strong family- and associate-management is one of the key areas of focus in the the Professorship for Research and Didactics. The Professorship for Leadership and Dynamics of Family Businesses is embedded in the interdisciplinary orientation of the WIFU as part of the Professorship for Business Administration and thus emphasizes psychological, family-psychological an sociological questions and their connection to economics.

Research Areas and Projects

Associates and Conflicts in Family Businesses
Conflicts are often “inherited” and passed on for generations. The “collective memory” of an organization is reflected in stories told about passed conflicts, thus keeping them alive. The question of how conflicts arise in social systems, how they escalate and through which patterns of behavior they are carried on is of great importance.

The question of succession provisions in the business is intimately related to conflict management. How does the re-appointment of company positions among family members and successors influence the psychological patterns, how do the successors manage paradoxes and what sorts of structural solutions can family businesses find in order to handle such issues?

Passing on of Values and “The Power of Stories”
The longterm success of  a family business depends largely on the ability of passing on family values and tradition, creating a framework for identification and commitment which the family members can call on. Again, the creative force of values passed on through the “power of stories” provides for a sense of family-coherence.

Patterns of Success in Multi-Generational Family Businesses
This project has given insight into businesses that have reached the fourth generation. The question of which leadership principles and family strategies have proven successful in large businesses has been of great interest.

The International STEP-Project
In cooperation with the chair for Accounting and Management Conrol the Professorship for Leadership and Dynamics is participating in the STEP-Project of Babson-College (Boston, Mass.), a study of comparative culture. This study examines how generations of family businesses manage to remain entrepreneurially successful.


The former directors of the Professorship for Leadership and Organization, Prof. Dr. Wimmer, Vienna and Prof. Dr. F.B. Simon, Berlin, are important collaborators. Further external scholars, entrepreneurs and managers are actively involved in research and didactics.