The 17 in 2017 List recognizes extraordinary successors—a group that is typically either ignored or vilified in mainstream culture. When we read about heirs and heiresses who achieve global notoriety as socialites with substantial egos, lavish lifestyles, and undeserved positions of influence, we think of nepotism. Only four in ten people trust those who have inherited their wealth, according to an important global survey by Edelman conducted in 2014. The study also found that next generation leaders do not command the high trust that people have for entrepreneurs and business founders. Some inheritors deserve this reputation, but not all. Not even most. John A. Davis says, “Our temptation, when we see problems in a family business, is to blame it on the family.” Inheritors tend to receive blame for the fall, and little credit for the triumphs.
In fact, family successors are, by and large, deeply knowledgeable about their family enterprise, highly prepared, rigorously vetted, and strongly supported by the owners and board that appoint them. Definitive studies, such as Anderson and Reeb’s, show that family successors lead enterprises that outperform non-family enterprises, on average. Yet it is rare to find a news story explaining that an heir or heiress is behind the success of an organization.
We at Cambridge Institute feel it’s time to spotlight successors for their significant contributions. We are showcasing them, says John A. Davis, “for being very important drivers of their enterprise’s successes and strengths.” The leaders listed are motivated not only by individual achievement. They also measure themselves by the success of their family, the greatness of their organization, and the sustainability of their community. Their lasting imprints will be seen and felt for another generation and beyond. Here’s to next generation leaders: an overlooked group that deserves recognition. They shape the world as we know it—and it’s time that society takes notice.