028 30 leader kees (subbed).



02:37 PM

Page 28


Dual or duel leadership?

kees hommes

alex de voogt

ABSTRACT: Leadership is complex. Seeking the best leadership structure for an organisation requires a continuous effort. But is it necessarily lonely at the top? This article illustrates the possibility for a permanent partner who shares the complexities of leading an organisation.

amily companies illustrate that brothers, sisters or married couples can work together to provide organisational leadership. Non-profit organisations show a long tradition of

dual leadership, and their leaders are neither friends nor family. Indeed, almost all types of companies have examples of founders, family or unrelated partners to co-operate as leaders. Partners at the top are common. As partners rather than loners, two people can take responsibility for the strategy of an organisation and lead successfully. Each organisation has a choice to make when it appoints its leader(s), or creates its leadership structure: singular or dual leadership. The literature speaks of plural leadership that ranges from one leader and an assistant, to entire teams who take responsibility for the organisation. Co-leaders, leadership couples, split, twin and dual leadership structures all seem to point at more than one person at the top. Here the term “dual leadership” is used, defined as two leaders of an organisation who share executive power and have equal rank. While

convergence vol 7 no 4

028 30 leader kees (subbed).qxd


02:37 PM

Page 29

many organisations could claim the presence of multiple leadership by having their leader listen to, or meet with lower-ranking management, only the formal arrangement of dual leadership demands a share in power. It is still widely assumed that leadership is exercised on an individual basis . But in our street it is different. Mr. and Mrs. Couple run the butcher; our Dell computer has been purchased from the Dell brothers; and our Fortis bank appears to have co-chairmen. Indeed, as with J&R Music, Philips, Hewlett-Packard, Fiat, Laura Ashley, Hermes
1, 5, 6 1

department. Still new ones are being considered, such as chief networking officer (CNO) and chief consultant liaison (CCL). The definition of these new roles is a result of the increasing complexity of the internal and external domain, as well as the demands placed on the executive function. The executive decisions are spread across the board. All such split decisions could be made in one management team, and each of the functions mentioned above could be executed by two persons, rather than just one. This creates a world of leadership options.

, they have or had a dual leadership structure,

or shared roles at the top of their company. It appears that the structure of leadership can change from shared to singular leadership or vice versa. The existence of both structures within one company’s history indicates that the leadership structure is an open choice. This choice has been common practice in non-profit organisations. For instance, arts organisations often opt for a division of tasks, and they create an artistic and business directorship, since few people possess the qualities for both. Other organisations split tasks due to growth, such as large religious congregations that appoint two reverends to serve their community across larger regions. In extreme cases dual leadership has been used as a problem-solving tool for an organisation’s leadership, as happened with cruise ship captains and museum directors . There, the power structure needed temporary amending without removing the otherwise competent manager from its leading position.

Having both shared and singular leadership in a company’s history shows that leadership structure is an open choice
Apart from new roles in the leadership structure, the increasing need for unequivocal accountability and clarity in cases of legal, social and ethical scrutiny sometimes calls for reducing the numbers at the top. In these cases, a simple hierarchical structure with one leader leaves no doubt about who is responsible and accountable for the organisation’s performance. Complexities may call for additional leaders, and accountability issues may demand singular leadership. As a result the leadership structure of an organisation is a balance between clarity and flexibility. It is still possible to argue that solo structures are less capable of responding to strategic uncertainty than duo structures. The pressure to make decisions based on large amounts of data, and the continuous need for making sense of the ambiguous organisational context, may overwhelm the cognitive capabilities of solo executives. Or perhaps the two leadings strategies in an organisation, such as strategic/artistic and

MULTIPLE ROLES. Both the definition of roles and the
demarcation of executive tasks are subject to change. Some of these changes are preceded or accompanied by new social or professional norms and legal reforms, such as the Sarbanes Oxly Act , a governance regulation. Other changes are brought about as a result of perceived increasing complexity, both within and outside of the organisation. Following the introduction of the chief operating officer (COO) role in the mid-1960s, the late 1990s brought about a myriad of new roles such as a chief financial officer (CFO), chief information officer (CIO), chief technology officer (CTO), chief knowledge officer (CKO), chief learning officer (CLO) and a chief marketing officer (CMO) pulling the reins in the marketing

financial/operational, need equal representation to make it clear that no single strategy will suffice. As one researcher1 claims: “If the mix of competencies, background, styles and contacts of the two executives is appropriate and successfully integrated, the professional duo provides better decision-making capability at the top than can the solo executive, who relies on individual capacities or a loosely knit team.”

convergence vol 7 no 4

028 30 leader kees (subbed).qxd


02:37 PM

Page 30

SPLITTING LEADERSHIP. Splitting roles, previously performed
by one individual, into parts that can be assigned to two individuals can be done mechanistically or organically . The mechanistic way splits the roles without any overlap, while in the organic situation the leaders may have overlapping roles and may work together on certain tasks. Arts organisations often allow a clear distinction between business and artistic leadership. Directors of art museums are commonly art historians. At the same time,

socially – tends to result in a relationship fabric that can stand the test of arguments and disagreements. In situations where this fabric is absent, the arrangement may not succeed. Chemistry is often overlooked in executive searches2, but in selecting co-leaders, chemistry between the present executive and incumbent appears crucial. It can provide the foundation required to work out roles, task definitions and conflict management.

DUAL OR DUEL LEADERSHIP? Dual leadership is hardly a family
affair, but a common structure that includes leaders of different skills working together. The multiple and increasingly complex tasks at hand demand more than one executive skill to guide the organisation. Examples from all types of organisations have shown the possible positive effects of dual arrangements. The dominant idea

Successful leadership duos often enjoy a natural bond, and have clearly separated roles and well-defined tasks
a need exists for logistical and financial management. Rarely the two skills of business and artistic management are combined in one person, and arts organisations consequently have a long tradition in employing dual leadership structures. Similarly, split roles are found in successful family businesses. In the case of Philips Electronics, one leader concentrated on the technical part while the other focused on the business side. Only long-term strategic decisions would be made in pairs. The extent to which the leaders share tasks appears to depend both on the personalities of the individuals involved, and the origins of the dual leadership arrangement. When the roles are clearly split, but the competencies of the leaders overlap strongly (a situation frequently observed after mergers), the arrangement is still flawed. When executives do not enjoy the benefit of a natural division of labour at the top, a third party may be needed as the only way to move forward .

remains that a leader should be singular, and that two people sharing power is calling for trouble. However, the reader is invited to consider the potential, and explore the possible benefits of this arrangement, either to solve an intricate political challenge or to implement strategies related to the organisation’s external domain. Successful leadership duos often enjoy a natural bond, and have clearly separated roles and well-defined tasks. The existence of an interdependent relationship and chemistry between the dual leaders is thought to provide the fabric required to resolve complex problems, including dual decision-making itself. The absence of these features, as a result of flawed design or simply incompatibilities between the individuals, may cause leaders to meet on each other’s turf regularly and turn dual leadership into duel leadership.

References: 1. Alvarez, JL and Svejenova, S (2005.) Sharing Executive Power: Roles and Relationships at the Top. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK. 2. Bennis, W and O’Toole, J (2000). “Don’t Hire the Wrong CEO”, Harvard Business Review, 78, pp170-176. 3. De Voogt, AJ (2006). “Dual Leadership as a Problem-solving Tool for Arts Organisations”, International Journal of Arts Management, September, pp17-22. HEC Montreal, Canada. 4. Green, S (2004). Manager’s Guide to the Sarbanes-Oxly Act. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. 5. Gronn, P (1999.) “Substituting for Leadership: The Neglected Role of the Leadership Couple”, The Leadership Quarterly, 10, pp141-162. 6. Heenan, DA and Bennis, W (1999). Co-leaders: The Power of Great Partnerships. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

implemented in different ways and for different reasons, but the success of the arrangement depends on more than just an agreement on how to divide up the work. Interdependency of, and chemistry between, partners are important ingredients to keep relationships healthy over time. Similarly, the interdependency between family members and friends – financially, emotionally and

convergence vol 7 no 4

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful