Co-leadership is a term growing in prominence as a management solution. Simply defined, co-leadership is the concept of having two leaders equally positioned and sharing the responsibilities of leadership. It is already a relatively common strategy in the arts in Australia and is found in healthcare organizations as well but can it be applied more broadly in the corporate world? A research paper from Regent University concluded that while “shared leadership has its challenges and can be difficult to implement, overall the benefits of shared leadership hold promise.” With increasingly complex organisational structures, co-leadership has been credited for strengthening interdepartmental synergies which had previously lacked coordination.
A 2016 Swedish study looked at combined health and social work services which traditionally—due to differentiating factors such as funding sources, economic incentives and legal frameworks—have struggled to function together effectively for its patients. Interviews with co-leaders revealed that in this complex area of service the structure was viewed positively, with managers being able to complement each other’s expertise, provide a more holistic service and create opportunities for learning. An interesting pre-condition of a successful co-leadership was that managers share a physical location, suggesting close and regular communication is key to success.
Co-leadership is not without its limitations. The time to reach decisions may be prolonged given the more collaborative nature. The flip side to this drawback is decisions, once made, tend to be better founded.
Research has also stressed the importance of defining an overall guiding mission for the organisation when implementing a co-leadership structure. Visualising the company or division as a whole can aid employees to see how they fit into the bigger picture and the ultimate goals of the organisation. As a relatively new and unfamiliar management structure, it’s important that roles are clearly defined, not just for the two co-leaders but for upper management, clients and the new combined team. The newly released OrgChart Now allows two co-managers to be clearly represented at the top of the chart with the combined team represented below.
Org Chart Now’s co-manager function allows you to represent co-leadership arrangements in your organisation
Request an OrgChart Now free trial to visualise an existing co-management structure or to scenario plan a pilot program in your organisation.