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Next generation: Leading your family towards legacy

Antonio Conejero doesn't pull any punches. "When the next generation is lazy, the company will probably die," he says.

As head of the real estate division of his family business, Spain-based Grupo Siro, and president of the FBN next gen committee, the 38-year-old has a vested interest in ensuring his peers hear his message loud and clear.

In particular, Antonio says he wants to inspire other next gens to become good leaders. "Being part of the family business is not only about being a shareholder, it is about taking an active role in understanding the business," he says. "At some point in the future you will be called upon to make a business decision and if you do not understand the company and know the numbers, you will probably make the wrong decision."

Everyone has the potential to be a great leader, according to Antonio, because leadership is simply about following three basic rules: to care, to provoke and to convince.

"Good leadership starts with caring about the people you are leading. You need to listen to them because if you don't you won't understand their problems or how to lead them forward," he says. "When you show people you care, you create a connection with them and that is the beginning of leadership."

The next step is provoking people to act in order to move forward. "You need to be active, to promote discussion, teamwork, bonding and make people want to move forward," he explains.

"In a family business context, a good leader needs to provoke the next generation to want to know more about the family business. They need to inspire them to want to understand the business, and make them hungry to be involved," he says.

This can be done through several different means including promoting next gen involvement and ensuring all family members are well informed about the business.

Antonio's third step to becoming a successful leader is having the ability to convince. He says this is not a quality you must be born with but one that comes naturally from good communication.

"Families can be bad at communicating. In a business sense they are good, but when it comes to the family and feelings, they are weaker," explains Antonio. "As a leader you must instigate communication between family members and management, generate an atmosphere that promotes good communication and instigate gatherings that allow discussion."

Antonio tries to apply these basic principals in both his roles as FBN next gen president and as a next gen leader within his family business. "When I go to next generation gatherings I always try to talk to everyone, to ask them how they are and to make sure people are having fun. I have a good relationship with most people, so they look to me for guidance," he says.

As the only member of the second generation to actively work in his family business, Antonio's role is less about caring and more about communication. His aunt and uncle founded Grupo Siro and are still active in the business, but have no children of their own. As a result, they look to their nephews to continue the family legacy.

"I try to be the bridge between the second generation and my aunt and uncle," he says. "For me the most important thing to improve is communication between the family, so all the second generation cousins understand what is happening and are concerned about what is happening. That way they can understand what the challenges are, why we make certain decisions and the reasons behind changes we implement."

So what advice does Antonio have for those next gen members who aspire to be great leaders? "Be brave enough to try. Sometimes we see something and we never try because we think it is impossible, but it is really easy to become a leader with a little bit of service and sacrifice," he concludes. 

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