Our joint MDs Shelley Frosdick and Stuart Skinner have been working together since April 2020, and as the trend for joint leadership continues, they have shared their views on how to make a joint leadership role work and the benefits over a traditional, single CEO model.
As the trend for joint leadership continues, how do you make it work and what are the benefits over a traditional, single CEO model?
By Shelley Frosdick and Stuart Skinner
From our personal experience and discussions with others in the industry in a similar position, there are some fundamentals required to make it a success: honesty, trust and respect for each other.
If those touchstones are in place, the benefits of joint leadership can be unlocked not only when you agree with each other but also when you don’t – in fact, particularly when you don’t.
Rigour behind decisions
Ideas take on a new potency when shared and doubts are quickly sanity checked.
But when you come at things from completely different perspectives, that’s when joint leadership comes into its own.
Debating and interrogating every angle behind closed doors means there is real rigour behind big decisions before they become public.
What are the chances of agreeing with every aspect of your co-leader’s view?
Greater than we expected, in truth, but more often than not you start from different positions and move closer together through the planning process before reaching the same point together.
That trip is taken many times times each week. If the touchstones mentioned above are adhered to, it is very rewarding one and brings with it answers to almost every question or objection a big decision could encounter; even if unanimity can never be guaranteed, joint leaders are often better prepared with well thought through explanations and that commands respect through understanding.
Backing each other
It’s impossible to deny that leadership comes with daily doubt and anxiety. Sometimes (all too often, in fact), you have to admit that you don’t have all the answers.
At those moments, it really pays to have someone sharing exactly the same pressures and feeling the same insecurities. It’s a huge release of pressure to discuss those feelings, put them in proper context and build each other’s confidence back up to the level required to lead.
Yes, your co leader can be your best therapist and that extends to backing the other person when you can see they have a strong, passionate view on a particular subject.
Occasionally, it is worth taking a short cut on the decision making trip and just saying yes, go for it. Knowing each other well enough to notice those moments and stand back will avoid any perceived dilution of authority or frustration at delays. Co leadership certainly doesn’t need to mean leadership by committee.
Bringing people together
Single CEOs may feel the pressure of being all things to all people, which can create a veneer of artificiality.
A major benefit of co leadership is that it allows for authenticity much more readily because you cover all bases between you and can focus on what you’re good at and enjoy most.
Dividing and conquering on major initiatives not only frees up time but also helps to answer the inevitable question ‘who’s in charge here?’ by deferring to each other in certain areas and combining to agree on major decisions. That way, different parts of the organisation who are working either with you or your partner on distinct projects, are brought together under your shared leadership.