Co-Leadership and Teams: A Powerful Workplace Option

By Renae Oswald-Anderson, Partner  Many of us have heard the familiar expression, “Two heads are better than one.” In the case of co-leadership it certainly can be true. Ideally, co-leadership builds on the gifts and strengths of each leader. The Harvard Business Review published a report in July 2015, “How to Co-Lead a Team” on the benefits of co-leadership which include: boosting your team’s performance through increased collaboration and coordination, creative problem solving using each leader’s unique experiences and perspectives, and potentially a more creative and innovative solution. From a purely operational stand point, co-leadership also provides coverage during parental leaves, elder care, emergencies, vacations, and sabbaticals.

Co-leadership is shared responsibility and accountability to an organization’s mission and success. For co-leadership to work there must be clearly designated roles and responsibilities. There must be frequent and clear communication both among the two leaders and across the organization. Even if there is an initial disagreement between the two leaders behind closed doors it is critical to present a united front and message to the organization and to the stakeholders.

The success of co-leadership is often determined by the strength of the relationship between the two leaders. It is imperative that this relationship be built on mutual respect and trust with the ability to have honest and impactful conversations. Having courageous conversations while making course corrections are essential to the ongoing success of the organization.

Progress toward organizational objectives needs to be continually monitored as well as the team dynamics. Co-leadership affects not just the two leaders but the entire team including working with the board of directors and establishing which leader supports a standing committee.

Co-leadership is a useful strategy in creating and sustaining high-impact teams resulting in strong community impact for mission driven organizations.

Recently, Renae Oswald-Anderson presented co-leadership characteristics to the MN Department of Education’s 21st Century Learning Community grantees.