“Family gravity” - doesn’t it just mean strong leadership?

Consultants often invent words and terms to describe organisational phenomenons at businesses and economies. These “buzzwords” can catch on and are increasingly used by other consultants, as well as in the subject’s literature. But many times they are just jargon, describing things that have a more straightforward explanation.

Here’s a phrase that has popped up in family business circles in recent years - “family gravity”. It appears to have emerged from a piece of research done by the executive search group Egon Zehnder. Claudio Fernández-Aráoz, an executive at Egon and highly respected business expert talked about “family gravity” in a recent interview with Harvard Business Review.

He said about family gravity: “We found that there was at least one key family member, but up to three who were like the sun in the solar system. They aligned all their interests towards their common values, common visions and common priorities. They attracted great talent and kept them in their own orbit like the sun, providing light so everyone knew where they were going…”

Family Capital may be wrong, but this sounds like strong leadership. To prove the point, it would be interesting to ask the likes of the media magnate Rupert Murdoch, VW’s Ferdinand Piëch, and Inditex’s Amancio Ortega about family gravity. Family Capital might be wrong, but we expect they might opt for the strong leadership description, over family gravity.