Small Business Economics

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 735–753 | Cite as

CEO leadership and board decision processes in family-controlled firms: comparing family and non-family CEOs

  • Fabio Zona


This study examines the impact of board decision processes on board task performance in family firms, contingent upon the presence of a family or a non-family CEO. Bridging insights from behavioral research on boards and the upper echelons perspective, it is suggested that influence of board decision processes on performance benefits from different aspects of CEO attributes. To the extent that family and non-family CEOs exhibit different cognitive frames, it is hypothesized that board processes contribute differently to board task performance, depending on whether a family or a non-family CEO is at the helm. An empirical analysis of a sample of Italian family firms provides support for two hypothesized effects: Use of knowledge and skills is more beneficial for board task performance under a non-family CEO; cognitive conflict is more beneficial under a family CEO. Contrary to expectations, the effects of effort norms do not differ between the two settings. This study contributes to research on both boards and family firms; new opportunities for advancements are discussed.


Family firms Boards of directors Decision processes Family CEO Non-family CEO 

JEL Classifications

L2 L26 M10 M12 D23 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics and ManagementUniversity of TrentoTrentoItaly
  2. 2.ICRIOS Bocconi UniversityMilanItaly

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