We have all heard the phrases, “two heads are better than one,” or, “teamwork makes the dreamwork,” and most of us can name several dynamic duos (Lucy & Desi, Batman and Robin, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak). It was no surprise that these came to mind when one of my clients asked me about hiring a co-executive for their sales division.
My initial reaction was it wouldn’t work. Over the course of my career, I have worked in two situations with co-leaders, and I vividly recalled my tenure under what I called “the dual-headed monster” as schizophrenic. Working under a co-leader for me epitomized the pitting of parents against each other. I quickly learned if I asked “Mom” and she told me “No,” I would ask “Dad,” and most of the time he would say, “Yes."
As I pondered the concept of dual leadership, it prompted me to stop and do some research to find out more. I wanted to validate my thinking that a co-leadership position was doomed to fail. What I discovered through my research is that the co-leadership concept is not necessarily doomed to fail, but its success does hinge on how strategically you approach it and who you put in the positions.
To start, the definition of job-sharing means splitting a full-time job into two part-time jobs. The first thing that became clear while doing my research was there are several different ways that jobs can be shared or split. There are primarily three types of shared jobs:
The Twin Model
The twin model involves two employees sharing a position and its workload, completing the same tasks but working on different days. They are jointly responsible for all duties and act as a team to complete them. (source: Small Business First)
The Islands Model
The Islands Model, also known as job split, involves two employees sharing a position, but not its workload. Duties are split up between the employees, allowing them to focus and specialize in different areas of the role, taking advantage of each person's different skill set. In this model, job sharers have little reliance on each other to complete tasks. (source: Small Business First)
The Co-leader Model
Just like it sounds, this model is shared leadership between two or more people. Basically, this is sharing a leadership job. In the case of my client, it meant sharing a VP role. In my research I discovered co-leadership can be two people sharing the role of CEO, or it could mean shared leadership between executives such as CEO and COO.
Now that you understand what the options are, before you consider creating a job share situation, it is important to explore both its positive and negative aspects.
Powerful leaders sharing a role can increase the capacity for creativity and innovation. It can also boost productivity, reduce stress and enhance decision making. When two leaders collaborate together, the likelihood for greater leverage and synergy exists. This is the “two is better than one” philosophy.
That being said, powerful leaders sharing a role can also present a challenge. The likelihood for a power struggle exists, and if the two are not aligned, it is possible for employees to easily use one against the other.
Co-leadership can actually be beneficial to an organization if done correctly. When executed with the proper strategy, design and forethought, it can add value to the organization and the individuals in the role.
If you are considering creating a co-leadership position, I recommend you consider the following:
- What is the purpose of creating a co-leadership position? How will this service goal fulfillment?
- How clear is the growth strategy and plan to achieve KPI’s and the company vision?
- What position are you considering sharing and why?
One of the things I have seen happen is an organization will create a co-leadership position because an executive isn’t performing. Instead of setting clear objectives and accountability for the person not performing, the organization decides to hire a co-leader to help bridge the gap. I understand why this seems like a good idea, but I recommend that when someone is not performing, this is the exact time not to create a co-leader position.
If you are creating a shared role, it is important that you clearly outline the objectives, tasks, roles and responsibilities, so you can distribute those according to each of the co-leader’s strengths and weaknesses. You will want to bring in two strong leaders who can in total achieve the goals set forth by the organization. It is also important that you create a strong communication plan, defining the reporting structure for those who report to the co-leader. This will help reduce the possibility of employees pitting one leader against another as mentioned earlier.
Lastly, when looking for leaders to share an executive role, look for the six signs of emotional intelligence:
- Emotional self-awareness
- Emotional self-control
- Organizational Awareness
- Conflict Management
There are several assessments that can help you determine if a leader embodies these areas of emotional intelligence.
If you are looking to create a co-leadership position in your organization, be sure you spend the necessary time strategizing on the front end before you begin your search. This will help ensure a smooth transition.
If you are considering creating a co-leadership role, please sign up for a FREE 30-minute session, and I will take you through the process to make sure you are set properly from the beginning: https://calendly.com/talentattractionexperts