Every successor in the lineage of Zen is a Buddha/Patriarch. That is the beauty of the Zen lineage, I would say. There are beauties to every lineage, but the Zen lineage really truly acknowledges that every ancestor, or patriarch as we call it, is a Buddha, and every Buddha is a patriarch or an ancestor. In other words, there are no patriarchs apart from Buddha, and each has the power to decide how to embody and transmit the Dharma. Each Buddha/Ancestor is the living embodiment, manifestation and head of the lineage, acting with wisdom and compassion.