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Human Relations

DOI: 10.1177/0018726709335539
Volume 62(7): 10731112
The Author(s), 2009
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The Tavistock Institute
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Impact of dual executive leadership


dynamics in creative organizations
Wendy Reid and Rekha Karambayya

A B S T R AC T

The paradoxical co-existence of business and artistic objectives in


creative organizations provides a useful background to explore the
conflict dynamics of dual executive leadership. Using a social psychological lens, eight case studies of non-profit performing arts companies
in Canada generated two sets of findings that highlight 1) types of
conflict dissemination beyond the duo and 2) their co-occurrence
with conflict types impacting on the organizations ability to function
well. The study also re-confirmed types of conflict as found in the
leadership duo.

K E Y WO R D S

charities/not-for-profit organizations  conflict dissemination


conflict resolution  creative organizations  distributed
leadership  dual leadership

Introduction
Most scholars and management practitioners view dual leadership as an
unusual structure, but it has been a longstanding feature of a range of
organizations, particularly in the non-profit field. It is also found in banking,
film, journalistic organizations like newspapers and high tech businesses
(Alvarez & Svejenova, 2005).
Many leadership and management scholars argue that a dual executive
leadership structure cannot function effectively (Alvarez & Svejenova, 2005;
Locke, 2003; Locke et al., 2007). A recent discussion between Locke et al.
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(2007) and proponents of shared or multiple leadership (Pearce & Conger,


2003a) provided the arguments in favour of unitary executive leadership:
organizations need a single person to generate a coordinating vision. Conflict
between the two or more executive leaders renders the vision incoherent and
ineffective. A number of historically noted management scholars support this
notion (Barnard, 1938; Fayol, 1949; Mintzberg, 1979, 1989).
However, a number of leadership scholars have argued that work
groups are more creative (Pearce, 2004), schools are more democratic and
accessible (Gronn, 2002) and organizations are more coordinated and
responsive to the environment (Heenan & Bennis, 1999) when leadership is
shared or distributed. Distinctive of these recent multiple leadership studies
is a self-chosen and emergent nature. These leaders negotiate their duties and
division of labour in the process of assuming their roles together. As a result,
conflict may have a limited presence, providing these scholars with a strong
argument for the benefits of multiple leadership structures.
In contrast to these emergent multiple leaders, the majority of organizations with dual leadership in the creative, media and non-profit sectors
feature two individuals who are chosen independently, often mandated by a
Board of Directors, with different contract times and lengths. They assume
roles that are functionally pre-defined (professional versus managerial) in
response to external institutional and resource pressures (DiMaggio &
Powell, 1983; Peterson, 1986; Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978). This formal and
potentially conflict-laden approach to multiple leadership has not been
studied in this emerging leadership literature.
As further illumination of the conflict-laden context, creative organizations have been described as paradoxical (DeFillippi et al., 2007; Jones
et al., 2006; Lampel et al., 2000) and functioning with hybrid identities
(Albert & Whetton, 1985; Glynn, 2000). Leading and coordinating creative
organizations requires a capacity for balancing the decision-making across
contradictory forces, often requiring trade-offs between artistic excellence
and financial viability (Caves, 2000; DeFillippi et al., 2007; Jones et al.,
2006; Lampel et al., 2000). As a result, creative organizations present an
opportunity to examine significant potential for conflict in multiple leadership organizations. Therefore, we explore the following two questions in this
study:
1)
2)

How do dual executive leaders in creative organizations work with


conflict in their relationship?
What impact do the relationships conflict dynamics have on managerial, artistic and Board members of the organization and their ability
to realize their responsibilities?

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A qualitative research method is appropriate for two reasons: the early


stage of research on multiple leadership, and the executive leadership duos
impact across levels to that of the organization lends itself to an organizational case approach (Yammarino et al., 2005).
So, we examined eight performing arts organizations in Canada, where
the two leaders typically hold equal formal authority and report to the Board.
The duo members lead two separate functional groups within the organization: performing artists, technicians and creators led by an artistic or music
director, with managerial and business staff led by an executive director or
general manager. The dual leadership structure has been an accepted
approach in the Canadian performing arts field for most of the 20th century,
similar to that in the US (Peterson, 1986).
Cross-sectional data on the relationship dynamics of these executive
duos were gathered by individually interviewing the leaders, as well as senior
staff, artists, Board members and representatives of funding organizations.
The data of this study enabled an exploration of the conflict dynamics in the
relationship, and their impact on organizational processes involving staff and
Board members using a social psychological theoretical lens. An alternative
approach, employing a psycho-dynamic perspective to explore these research
questions would also be rich and useful for insight in this context (Bion,
1961; Miller, 1990a, 1990b; Turquet, 1974),1 but would require a different
data collection strategy focusing on the management group as the unit of
analysis and observing group dynamics over time.

Literature review
This study involved two topics that have substantial traditions of research in
the social psychological literature: conflict and its management and leadership. While our research questions exist at the intersections of these two
streams, research in conflict management and leadership have developed, for
the most part, independently. However, the end of this section provides a look
at matrix structure, which is another intersection of conflict and leadership in
organizations. In this review, a discussion of the pertinent findings from these
literatures follows an examination of the research on cultural and creative
organizations where tensions between artistic and business values dominate.

Tensions in creative organizations


Mainstream business scholars and practitioners have recently come to recognize that management of creative processes is a strategic strength. The value

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of the particular traits in creative organizations is being recognized because


the integration of creative and business activities is viewed as increasingly
pertinent (Lampel et al., 2006: 9). A number of paradoxes appear to shape
this sector. Lampel et al. (2000, 2006) enlightened the traditional paradox
of art versus business by observing a number of facets of this core tension:
artistic versus mass entertainment, cultural versus commercial values, individual inspiration versus organizational creative systems and originality
versus well-tested formulas. Others have followed suit, building on individual versus artistic systems or collective identity (DeFillippi et al., 2007;
Jones et al., 2006). The dual executive leadership phenomenon symbolically
embodies a number of these paradoxes. The AD is the individual artist
searching for artistic expression through their leadership in an organizational
structure and the ED is the managerial leader motivated to ensure the sustainability of the organization through business practice.
Three types of research articles have examined the effect of paradoxes
faced by managers in creative organizations. First, scholars focused on
organization-wide phenomena often grounded in organization theory. Many
studies using rich and complex analyses of culture described the tension
between managerial/economic thinking versus the professional curatorial or
artistic perspective (Chiapello, 1998; Eikhof & Haunschild, 2007; Glynn,
2000; Townley, 2002; Voss et al., 2000). Also studied was the powerful effect
on artistic strategies from external economic resources (Alexander, 1996).
A second, practice-oriented approach provided lists of skills and traits
necessary for leadership in creative organizations. The business versus art
paradox was also implicit in this analysis. Managers are facilitators
(Bendixen, 2000; Clancy, 1997); they try to be human resource managers
(DiMaggio, 1983); they choose either a managerial or artistic leadership style
(Palmer, 1998); and they are decision-makers (Cray et al., 2007). Ironically,
these descriptions of leadership in the arts overlooked the dynamics of the
dual executive leadership often found in these organizations.
Finally, in response to their iconic status, the orchestra conductor has
often been studied in the management literature (Glynn, 2006; Hunt et al.,
2004; Mintzberg, 1998). Implications were drawn for broader consumption
in management studies. However, to date the focus has been on the individual conductor and that leaders relationship with the orchestra members,
rather than the relationship with the executive director and the whole
organization, although Glynns work (2006) does suggest larger organizational issues.
Dual executive leadership and its practice in creative organizations
have been understudied. This relationships conflict dynamics should provide
greater insight into managing creative organizations as well as similarly
structured leadership in the larger management field.
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Conflict research is reviewed next, followed by an overview of leadership studies. Following that is a discussion of the research on matrix organizations in which both conflict and leadership are seen as phenomena that arise
out of complex organizational forms.

Conflict
To begin, situated within the field of social psychology is a definition of
conflict: perceived differences or incompatibilities, where discrepant views
or interpersonal incompatibilities contribute to the tension of conflict (Jehn,
1995: 257). Early views in this field positioned this tension as exclusively
destructive and sought means to eliminate conflict (Blake & Mouton, 1984;
Pondy, 1967). Scholars subsequently argued that conflict needed managing
rather than avoidance or elimination (Brown, 1983; Thomas, 1998).
Recently, researchers of groups and top management teams (TMTs) have
found that certain types of conflict can productively assist in group
processes (Amason & Schweiger, 1997; De Dreu, 1997; Jehn, 1997a;
Tjosvold, 2006).
Researchers in social psychology have long claimed that conflict might
be one of two variations one is task and the other is emotional (Deutsch,
1969). Recently, process conflict has been identified (Jehn, 1997b). Taskoriented conflict focuses on substantive choices involved in making decisions.
Focusing on outcomes, recent contributors have valued this conflict type
because it reduces the pressure to conform (Amason & Schweiger, 1997;
Jehn, 1997a; Tjosvold, 2006), develops more creatively conceived decisions
(Amason, 1996; Eisenhardt, 1989b; Peterson, 1997) and generates greater
acceptance of communal decisions among group members (Amason, 1996).
Emotionally-oriented conflict refers to disagreements over personal
values that involve responses like anger and hostility. Resulting hostility
siphons energy and focus away from the tasks of the group, with a negative
and potentially paralytic impact on decision-making (Janssen et al., 1999;
Jehn & Mannix, 2001; Pelled et al., 1999).
Process-oriented conflict involves differences about the method of
undertaking the task and responsibilities within the group (i.e. who does
what?) (Hinds & Bailey, 2003; Jehn, 1997b). It can easily lead to
emotionally-oriented conflict in circumstances where roles are specifically
defined (Jehn, 1997b). However, it is constructive in a groups process to
clarify task structures and responsibilities early (Jehn & Mannix, 2001).
Much conflict research in work groups has been restricted to observing conflict types and their outcomes within the group on decision-making
and strategy development through demographic study, experiments and
some field observation (Amason & Schweiger, 1997; Hambrick & Mason,
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1984). But none of this research examined the conflicts organizational


impact beyond the conflicted parties or the group.
Moving to the leadership field of study, scholars have argued against
shared or distributed leadership highlighting conflict as destructive or unproductive in this context. This discussion is analysed next.

Leadership
Traditionally leadership is conceived as a one-person phenomenon. Shared
leadership was counterintuitive because, for many centuries, strong solo
monarchs and church leaders dominated. Currently, charismatic political
leaders are profiled in the media. The study of unitary leadership started with
an examination of individual traits (Stodgill, 1948), reflecting the great men
perspective. Later the focus moved to a values-driven individual functioning
as a charismatic or transformational leader (Bass, 1985; House, 1977). These
theories called for strong, individually conceived views and vision, so the
notion of multiple leaders in the same role in an organization would generate
unacceptable differences.
A number of seminal works have influenced generally accepted
thinking in favour of unitary leadership (Alvarez & Svejenova, 2005). Fayol
(1949) advocated unity of command and direction in a pyramidal hierarchy,
in order to achieve a rational and efficient process and to avoid confusion,
emotion and conflict. In his study The theory of social and economic organization, Weber (1924/1947) argued that authority and power should be vested
in a single leader, in order to generate a consensus in the organization.
Barnard (1938) described how the specific vision and moral tone set by a
single executive leaders authority would generate the cooperation by
employees necessary for a successful organization. Mintzbergs study (1989)
of executive leaders activities observed that all leadership functions need to
be situated within one leader. Cumulatively, these scholars have influenced
generally accepted thinking about the importance and normative value of
single leadership.
Locke recently argued that developing a vision and hiring a strong
group of people to carry out that vision were the essential responsibilities of
an executive leader and that only one person could fulfil these responsibilities
(Locke, 2003; Locke et al., 2007). He defines leadership as the process of
inducing others to take action toward a common goal (2003: 271). In
contrast, advocates of multiple leadership (Pearce & Conger, 2003b) have
focused on a more informal and emergent understanding where the destructive conflict envisioned by advocates of single leadership may not exist. But

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conflict and its impact in a formally structured dual executive leadership


remain unconsidered in this literature.
Finally, we explore the literature on matrix organizations and its treatment of both conflict and leadership within complex organizational forms.2
Researchers on matrix organizations have studied the dual structure of
project and functional management within the same organization. This
management structure generates ambiguity and conflict for middle managers
(Allcorn, 1990; Burns, 1989; Lawrence et al., 1977; Sy & DAnnunzio,
2005). Lateral coordinative mechanisms like project managers, matrix
guardians and parallel accounting systems are key features of this approach
to organizational management (Burns, 1989; Sy & DAnnunzio, 2005).
Much of the research on matrix organizations tends to focus on the complexity of the dual reporting relationships faced by middle managers, rather
than the challenges of the top leadership in such structures (Lawrence et al.,
1977; Sy & DAnnunzio, 2005). Typically matrix structures are composed
of a number of senior managers with clearly defined functional or project
responsibility and a single chief executive who is responsible for alignment
of departmental goals and establishment of organizational priorities
(Lawrence et al., 1977).
Our study of dual executive leadership structures focuses on a
somewhat different structural form in which middle managers would
typically report to either the artistic or the business head at the executive
level while the role of organizational effectiveness would be the joint
responsibility of the two leaders. While we expected dual leadership structures to share some of the challenges faced by managers in matrix structures,
such as the alignment of unit goals and establishment of organizational
priorities, we were also aware that in these organizations the top executive
role is more complex because it is shared by two people with somewhat
different priorities and agendas.
Further, conflict is often characterized as competitive and potentially
problematic in the matrix literature (Sy & Cote, 2004; Sy & DAnnunzio,
2005). Conflict is seen as needing management through refining negotiating
skills, in contrast to recent social psychologists who advocate embracing
productive conflict (Tjosvold, 1997, 2006) or using conflict to develop
creative solutions and organizational strategy (Amason & Schweiger, 1997;
De Dreu & Van de Vliert, 1997). This study can benefit from the insights
about conflict in the matrix managerial perspective (Bartlett & Ghoshal,
1993; Lawrence et al., 1977). However, an examination of the impact of
conflict behaviour on organizational processes through dual executive
leadership is not found in this literature.

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Research context
This study used non-profit performing arts organizations in Canada as
illustrative case studies of conflict dynamics in duos at the executive leadership level and their impact on the ability of various members of the organization to do their jobs. While the two leadership roles developed as a
complement to each other driven by external pressures (Peterson, 1986),
there are a range of factors that would generate conflict between the leaders.
The causes of conflict are outside the focus of this study, but five features of
the organizational context provide some understanding of how conflict is a
backdrop to the duos relationship.
The first feature looks at the normal hiring process and functional
responsibilities of the two leaders. In the cases of this study, typical of
organizations in this field, the duo involved an artistic director (AD) and an
executive director (ED). The leaders were chosen by the Board of Directors
and hired independently of each other. None shared the same tenure or
contract conditions. The hiring context, therefore, provides little opportunity
for the two leaders to gain any previous working understanding that might
mitigate conflict.
The ADs oversaw the selection of artistic productions for the season.
These leaders were often directly involved in either creation or performance
activities and proposed the key artistic personnel to undertake that season.
That persons taste and style made the organization distinctive in the market.
The artistic side of the organization was typically unionized and its working
schedule spanned late mornings through to the evening, sometimes split shifts
and often weekends.
The ED was in charge of the revenue development activities like
fundraising, marketing and government relations; the ED was also typically
responsible for the budget planning process with the finance functions reporting to them. The ED was typically the partner most in touch with the Board
of Directors, working with them on governance issues, environmental
scanning and networking. The people reporting to this leader were business
staff working a usual nine to five oclock weekday schedule. They were rarely
unionized.
The two leaders would normally connect at points throughout the year
where the artistic plans and activities were integrated with the expectations
for audience and funded resources. Balancing the annual budget is the moment
when debate and potential differences would surface over resources needed
for each side of the organization, to move forward the work of certain functions or to realize certain artistic plans (Chiapello, 1998; Lampel et al., 2000).
The second distinctive feature involved the sensibilities in orientation
and training of the AD and the ED. Chiapello (1998) described the roots of
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this difference: artists were creative, unpredictable, iconoclastic, spontaneous


and social critics; and managers were rational, ordered, planned and worked
within the social order. She argued that these two sensibilities were subject
to natural animosity and opposition a difference of values.
The third feature describes organizational priorities. In the initial
development of these organizations, community founders and other members
of the organizations Boards of Directors focused on the AD as leader and
on artistic priorities (DiMaggio, 1986; Peterson, 1986). But as the funding
environment around non-profit arts organizations evolved to include
multiple external stakeholders like foundations, large corporations and
government, the funding dependence generated powerful demands for
financial accountability. This shaped how these organizations were resourced
and how they developed organizational strategies (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978),
thus changing organizational priorities.
While the artistic leader remained important, the partnering skills
of financial management and revenue development became increasingly
important. These skills were rarely found in the person of the AD. Therefore, a partnered leadership structure for the organization developed through
the 20th century in North America (Peterson, 1986), placing the ED in an
increasingly powerful role.
The two leaders could bring different perspectives and priorities to the
debate on how to manage the organizations relationship with the market
and funders. In parallel to the paradoxes of business versus art and in
response to the range of funding criteria from environmental stakeholders,
the AD would argue for quality, artistic development and the risk of innovation and the ED would argue for efficiency, and conservative, predictable,
widely acceptable programming.
The fourth feature examines assessment criteria for these organizations. There were no generally accepted criteria with which to judge the
validity of an artistic or an organizational strategy (DiMaggio, 2001; Lampel
et al., 2000). In such a web of ambiguity and subjectivity, personal values
and perspectives can easily creep into resource negotiations and strategic
decisions. This seems to set the stage for personal conflict.
The fifth feature highlights the interdependencies in the relationship.
While the duo members responsibilities for leadership generally involved
separate functions, the roles involved strong organizational interdependencies. In all of these cases, the AD relied on the ED for financial
resources derived from funding sources as well as from ticket sales. In all but
one case, the ED was responsible for negotiating union and individual
contracts that determined the work conditions and availability of the artistic
resources needed to satisfy the ADs ambitions and taste. On the other hand,
the ED relied on the AD to create programming that was stimulating to
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critics and performers, appealing for audiences and appreciated by private


donors and artistic peers on government granting juries. This mutual dependency made each executive vulnerable to the risk that the other would not
deliver.
These five contextual features demonstrate how conflict is a normal
background for these leaders. There may also be explanations for conflict
more general than this context found in the social psychology and psychodynamic literature. The research focus of this study is a description of the
resulting conflict behaviour at the executive leadership level and its impact
on the organization. In this manner, it provides a window onto the dynamics
of managing these, and other, similarly creative organizations.

Methodological approach
Case selection
Cases were selected to vary along three features: distinguishing characteristics of the organization (type of art form and size), their environment
(variations in funding contexts) and the leadership duo (respective tenure
length, founder status, educational and experience backgrounds and the
health of the relationship). The eight cases analysed here represented a
symphony orchestra, two dance, three theatre and two opera organizations.
Particular effort was made to research several organizations where the
relationship was known to be particularly problematic. The nature of these
difficult leadership duos ranged from a distant relationship, to an overtly
destructive and toxic dynamic. These cases proved very useful in exploring
destructive conflict in this study.

Data collection
Unstructured hour-long interviews took place (McCracken, 1988) with individuals in and around the organization providing a cross-sectional view of
the situation. Each case site generated an average of eight interviews with a
total of 79 interviews across the cases. Those interviewed were: both leaders,
usually the chair of the Board of Directors, two other members of the Board
who might have insights on the leader relationship (often including the
treasurer), two members of staff who had a sense of internal dynamics of
the leadership (often the finance or production director and the marketing
or fundraising director), an artist associated with the company and finally,
the appropriate discipline officer at the federal or provincial funding
organization.

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The interview format involved open questions on a number of topics:


about each individuals notion of leadership, about the relationship of the
two leaders in the organization, and how it affected peoples jobs, and about
leadership style in the organization.

Data analysis
Particular events or ongoing behaviours were reported differently from one
respondent to another. Rarely were the reports contradictory, but they
reflected the variations in perspectives. Reports from a third and fourth
respondent were helpful in understanding differences between respondents
to complete the portrait. While there was inevitably some image management behaviour undertaken by one or the other of the leaders in their interview conversations, the 360 degree effect of the interviews provided a
multifaceted view of the leadership duo (Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007).
The analysis of data involved an iterative process that was inductive and
deductive (Denis et al., 2001). Phases involving data collection, consultation
of the literature and writing reports and papers throughout the process shaped
the study. The analysis was accomplished in a traditional grounded theory
manner searching for repeated themes (Bryman, 2004; Bryman et al., 1996;
Coffey & Atkinson, 1996; Strauss & Corbin, 1998), crossing and comparing
cases searching for patterns (Eisenhardt, 1989a; Eisenhardt & Graebner,
2007; Yin, 2003) and finally, abstracting the themes and their relationships.
In the next section the findings in this study are outlined, followed by
discussion of implications and applications.

Findings
First, we outline the main constructs that emerged in the analysis of the eight
cases and then we go on to discuss in more detail the nature of the relationships among the conflict types, conflict behaviours and their implications for
organizational processes.

Central constructs
As studied in the social psychology literature on conflict, three conflict types
were reflected in this studys cases. These were task-oriented conflict, processoriented conflict and emotionally-oriented conflict.
We also uncovered a previously unreported form of conflict behaviour
in the dual leadership structure in these organizations. Four types of

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behaviour emerged that we refer to as conflict dissemination: adviceseeking, mediation, alliance-seeking and abdication. Advice-seeking involved
attempts to consult other organizational members and gather information
regarding the issues of conflict. Mediation happened when either a Board or
staff member enabled communication between the two. Alliance-seeking
involved behaviour by one leader to leverage power through alliances
with other organizational members to create opposition to the other leader.
Abdication of decision-making occurred when the two leaders were unable
to make a decision and they sent the issue up to the Board or down to middle
managers for resolution.
Organizational processes explored here involved three elements
internal to the organization: operational functions, leadership attribution
and morale. The data for these notions were found in the interviews with
the staff and Board members, and hence, are perceptions of the leaders
collective behaviour and how these perceptions affect work and attitudes in
the organization. Operational functions focused on decision-making about
annual programming and other longer term plans, and perceptions of their
timeliness and effectiveness. Leadership attribution reflected respect in the
direction of the duo. This respect generated weight for their decisions, and
appeared to motivate the organizational members to carry out these
decisions. Organizational morale involved a sense of member confidence in
the organizations future a collective sense of efficacy (Bandura, 1982;
Bohn, 2002).
Appendix A provides a list of all constructs used in this study with
some illustrative citations from the data for each.

Construct relationships
The research questions for this study enquired about how dual executive
leaders in creative organizations manage conflict and what influences the
conflict dynamic had on the work within the organization. The analysis
suggested two new conflict dynamics in response to these questions. First,
these duos either retained conflict between them or disseminated it through
the organization as a means of managing the conflict. The three different
conflict types co-occurred with the different types of conflict dissemination.
Task conflict appeared to co-occur with retention of the conflict or with
advice-seeking. Process conflict appeared to be either retained within the duo
or disseminated through alliance-seeking or advice-seeking. Emotionallyoriented conflict seemed to be retained temporarily, and then disseminated
either in the form of mediation, alliance-seeking or abdication.

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The second finding is that various combinations of type of conflict and


manner of dissemination influenced organizational processes. The organizational processes functioned independently, and were influenced by combinations of the conflict constructs. For example, a case may have had timely
and effective operational functions, but low leadership attribution and
morale because of dissemination of conflict through political allianceseeking. Table 1 provides a mapping for these relationships; and Figure 1
describes the relationships in a model format.
In the next section, we describe the two findings in more detail with
propositions that summarize the dynamic of each relationship by conflict
type. We first illustrate the co-occurring relationship between the range of
conflict types and different conflict dissemination behaviours. Then we
describe the impact of the combination of conflict type and dissemination on
organizational processes.
Table 1 Map of co-occurring conflict constructs and organizational processes

Conflict type

Conflict
dissemination
type

Organizational processes

Operational
Leadership
Organizational
functions
attribution
morale
(timely/slow)
(strong/weak)
(high/low)

Task-oriented

Internally
retained

More timely
Case A

Stronger
Case A

Higher
Case A

Adviceseeking down

Less timely
Cases B, D

Stronger
Cases B, D

Higher
Cases B, D

Internally
retained

Slower
Case C

Less strong
Case C

Less high
Case C

Adviceseeking up;
Allianceseeking

Less timely
Cases B, C, G, I

Less strong
Cases B, C, G, I

Less high
Cases B, C, G, I

Slower
Cases C, E

Less strong
Cases C, E

Less high
Cases C, E

Slower
Cases E, H

Weaker
Cases E, H

Lower
Cases E, H

Process-oriented

Emotionally-oriented Internally
retained
Allianceseeking above;
Mediation;
Abdication of
decisionmaking

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Dissemination
of conflict
Internal to duo
Advice-seeking
Mediation
Alliance-seeking
Abdication of decisions
(down/up)

Causes of
conflict

Conflict type

Task-oriented
Process-oriented
Emotionally-oriented

Organizational
processes
Operational
functions
(timely/slow)
Leadership
attribution
(strong/weak)
Morale
(high/low)

(present/absent)

Figure 1

Construct relationships for conflict dynamics in dual executive leadership

Combinations of conflict type and dissemination type


Task-oriented conflict
Task-oriented conflict often appeared to be retained within the duo.
Discussions of programming, audience size, special projects and funding
were all conflict issues that some duos were able to resolve productively
between themselves.
Case A is a particularly strong example of internally-retained taskoriented conflict. The duo took charge of their differences, and never reached
out to polarize others for support, even if the differences were aired in the
presence of the senior management group. A member of that group explained
how neither leader had drawn others into their differences:
If ED has spoken for both of them, AD will respect that. You know,
he wont try to say Why would ED make that decision? I absolutely
disagree with that. Like that would never happen. And certainly not,
he would never publicly say that. He might go back to ED and say,
What were you thinking or Lets talk about this.
In Case D, however, task conflict was shared in an advice-seeking mode
with the senior management. The duo chose to include the finance and
marketing directors in their discussions about programming, schedules and

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financial issues. While the AD was sometimes combative, the EDs role was
a neutral facilitative one that helped to keep discussions task-oriented. This
forum provided the two executive leaders with a vetting process on which
to base their decisions. The finance director explained the dynamic:
Among the three of us I am on one side of the spectrum, AD on the
other side of the spectrum with ED in the middle mediating and . . .
you would understand that ED makes a fine mediator. He has that skill
and he does it well.
Proposition 1a: When task-oriented conflict occurs in the duo, it is
likely to co-occur with internal retention of conflict and/or conflict
dissemination through advice-seeking.
Process-oriented conflict
Process-oriented conflict involves the tasks what, how and who. In this
study, process-oriented conflict was generated when one member transgressed the boundaries of the others role, when one duo member was unable
to deliver their partners needs or when there were value differences between
the two leaders about how tasks should be undertaken.
In Case B, when the AD was particularly concerned about the engagement of a star artist, he expressed his frustration with the EDs approach to
another staff person by interpreting the EDs delay in concluding the engagement as evidence of poor commitment to the larger cause of the organization. The alliance-seeking behaviour attempted to rally others to the ADs
point of view, and it distributed the conflict around the organization. One
senior manager explained her experience with the AD:
AD had a little hissy fit yesterday about . . . how hes the only one in
this organization who he was mad because ED hadnt made a phone
call about an artist yet for somebody who he wants for his show 18
months down the road, . . . he made a comment about how hes the one
left holding the bag around here all the time.
This situation reflects the instability of process-oriented conflict for the
organization.
Proposition 1b: When process-oriented conflict occurs in the duo, it is
likely to co-occur with conflict dissemination through alliance-seeking.

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Emotionally-oriented conflict
In the cases studied, emotionally-oriented conflict appeared to involve
alliance-seeking, mediation and occasionally abdication of decision-making.
Instances occurred where emotionally-oriented conflict was, for a time,
retained within the duo.
Case E provided an example of open emotionally-oriented conflict that
eventually involved dissemination. When the ED could not develop the
resources to satisfy the ADs expanded production demands, the AD became
angry at being let down by the ED. For a time, this conflict remained internal
between the two, and was hidden from the rest of the organization. However,
the conflict was eventually shared externally by using an intermediary
working in the artistic department to exchange information. They were then
able to communicate on a limited basis. However, the mediation did not
improve the ED/AD relationship. Increasingly the ED and AD arranged daily
schedules purposely to avoid the others presence in the organization, and
they immersed themselves in their respective functional roles.
Ultimately, the AD planned a season that would result in significant
deficit, but the two were unable to talk about the problem. The ED resorted
to seeking an alliance with the Board to gain support and restore a balance
of power. He explained his strategy in the following manner:
And then when I started to see [production x] going off the rails in
terms of expenses once again, I realized that living an insular life of trying
to solve the problems without getting any sense of partnership from AD,
or a sense from AD to his staff, downwards to his staff, that they needed
to modify things, I decided Id put it out on the table in a more public
venue and thats where I decided to bring it to the executive and finance
committees and identify it as an issue and ask AD to attend.
However, no additional mediation by the chairperson was able to
repair the relationship. The ED felt that after five years, he was no longer
able to function effectively in the organization, so he found a position in a
duo elsewhere.
Proposition 1c: When emotionally-oriented conflict occurs in the duo,
it is likely to co-occur with internal retention of conflict or conflict
dissemination through mediation and/or alliance-seeking below the
duo and/or abdication of decisions above the duo.

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Impact of conflict type and dissemination on organizational


processes
Task-oriented conflict and internal retention or advice-seeking
Task-oriented conflict retained within the duo ensured that the rest of the
organization could feel confident that divisive issues were being addressed
adequately without experiencing the political risks and tensions of the
conflict directly.
Case A revealed a relationship where task-oriented conflict, internallyretained, had a constructive impact on the organization. Since everyone
understood that the two leaders regularly challenged and tested the plans,
the resulting decisions were respected by the members of the organization.
Because the duo never drew anyone into their differences, the conflict was
reassuring since there was an ongoing check and balance to the two points
of view. Respondents spoke of the productive nature of the duos relationship, and the confidence they felt in the leadership, demonstrating strong
leadership attribution. One senior staff member felt safe in expressing a
universal perception of the duos relationship:
I think everyone would say that they have a really good relationship
with one another and that theres a lot of trust and respect for one
another.
Morale was positive. Member loyalty to the organization remained
strong and optimism seemed to prevail at the senior management and Board
levels of the organization.
Proposition 2a: When task-oriented conflict and internally-retained
conflict co-occur in the duo, then i) operational functions are likely to
be more timely; ii) leadership attribution is likely to be stronger; and
iii) morale is likely to be higher.
In Case D, while task-oriented conflict and advice-seeking down to
senior staff may have required time to make decisions, the duos control of
the conflict ensured that relationships remained positive. Senior staff experienced great satisfaction at being able to contribute to the strategic solutions
for the organization. As a result, leadership attribution was high and morale
was strong despite slightly slower organizational processes. A senior manager
explained: And AD and ED are both, I think, very highly regarded. The
chairperson indicated that: There is a real sense of cohesion between staff
and Board at DD indicating that the organizations morale was positive.

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Proposition 2b: When task-oriented conflict in the duo and conflict


dissemination through advice-seeking co-occur, then i) operational
functions are likely to be less timely; ii) leadership attribution is likely
to be stronger; and iii) morale is likely to be higher.
Process-oriented conflict and internal retention or alliance-seeking
When process-oriented conflict is internally-retained, the members of the
organization have little connection with the conflict, except for the decisions
that may not get made in a timely fashion. Normally a healthy dynamic, the
issue of who does what may block an exploration of the substantive
concerns.
Case C provided an example of this kind of retained conflict. The two
leaders were deadlocked on developing a future direction for the artistic side
of the organization. The ED felt that the AD was responsible for the ideageneration that would carry the organization forward, but the AD seemed
paralysed on the topic. Other members of the organization were dependent
on this vision-development to realize their objectives for the organization.
The lack of information created frustration, and started to reduce leadership
attribution. One senior manager explained how this affected his job:
I have been waiting in limbo land and yet as you know decisions are
being made by sponsors, and the kind of money we need is significant
. . . Im out there selling, and Im out there trying to explain the
vision to the extent I can. But I end up focusing a lot on past
accomplishments . . .
Morale remained relatively high because the organization was administratively meeting deadlines and keeping on track financially. However,
respect for the leadership duo was weak, and there was reduced teamwork
within the organization. This disconnection reflected lower morale.
Proposition 2c: When process-oriented conflict in the duo and
internally-retained conflict co-occur, then i) operational functions are
likely to be slower; ii) leadership attribution is likely to be less strong;
iii) morale is likely to be less high.
When process-oriented conflict was disseminated, the staff or Board
members experienced varying degrees of concern about the leadership
relationships health, which undermined leadership attribution. Working in
such a political environment for any extended period appeared to affect longterm loyalty and morale.

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These dissemination behaviours, particularly the more politically


oriented alliance-seeking behaviour, also increased the risk of the conflict
becoming emotional. However, in most of the cases involving processoriented conflict, the duos seemed able to prevent the conflict from becoming
very destructive.
An example of alliance-seeking downward occurred in Case B. When
the AD questioned the EDs approach to artist contracting, others who
functioned closely with the two leaders felt the tension of the conflict directly.
The ADs demand for allegiance influenced closely positioned members
ability to attribute leadership in that instance. However, because the conflict
did not generally define the state of the duos relationship, morale was not
significantly affected and was restored over time.
Advice-seeking by a duo up to the Board of Directors combined with
process-oriented conflict might result in less control. Members of the organization may have developed an impression that decisions are not made at the
duo level, but rather, at the Board level, potentially undermining the duos
leadership authority. As well, exposing the conflict to the Board may lead to
reduced leadership attribution by the Board.
An example of Board consultation occurred in Case G, where the two
executive leaders frequently involved the chairperson in decision-making.
Decisions involving HR problems (how to compensate a disgruntled longtime employee) and artist relations issues (artists were upset because touring
logistics were too tight) were taken up for consideration by the good-natured
and helpful longstanding chair. He explained the norm in the organization:
And there is a tendency to say: Good, well ask the Board to make the
decision. If there were a conflict.
However, this exposure to the Board prompted an artist respondent to
anticipate that the Board would intervene in all conflict, diminishing leadership attribution to the AD and the ED. However, organizational morale
remained relatively high since the majority of the conflict behaviour remained
within the duo and decisions were made in a timely fashion, and the chairperson rarely intervened beyond the duo. But the potential for this possibility
was recognized by the incoming chair of the Board.
Proposition 2d: When process-oriented conflict in the duo and conflict
dissemination through advice-seeking upward or alliance-seeking in
any direction co-occur, then i) operational functions are likely to be
less timely; ii) leadership attribution is likely to be less strong; and iii)
morale is likely to be somewhat less high.

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Emotionally-oriented conflict and internal retention,


alliance-seeking, mediation or abdication
Emotionally-oriented conflict is the most destructive to organizational
processes. It decreases group members motivation and satisfaction (Jehn,
1995, 1997a) and affects strategic decision-making in TMTs (Amason,
1996). Retained within the duo, emotionally-oriented conflict may affect the
leaders capacity to make effective decisions for the organization as a whole,
and it may require one partner to compensate for the other. But depending
on the compensating partners capabilities, the situation may appear effective and decisions may happen in spite of the acrimony. If externally defined
success factors like balanced budgets are met, reasonably high leadership
attribution may occur. As well, morale may not be significantly influenced
because members have no direct contact with the conflict. This may compensate for any possible decreased leadership attribution that might come from
slower or less effective decisions. Morale would be less affected because there
is no direct contact with this destructive conflict.
In the early years of the relationship in Case E, the organization was
experiencing some marketing success, and neither the Board nor a number
of organizational members recognized difficulties within the duo, despite
slower decision-making and concerns about cost controls. This affected
leadership attribution although outside funders complimented the organization. The new ED outlined how successful the organization had become
from an outside perspective:
. . . artistically I think its an incredibly successful company. I think that
the combination of [production x] last spring and our first sell out run
was indicative of that. Bringing [production y] back and the
tremendous response that we got from people to that artistically . . .
we became the poster one of the poster child organizations for the
sustainability funding programme, and came out of it much stronger,
much more strategic.
The concerns about the delays in decision-making and the compensating cuts
undertaken exclusively among administrative staff affected morale somewhat.
Proposition 2e: When emotionally-oriented conflict in the duo and
internally-retained conflict co-occur in the duo, then i) operational
functions are likely to be slower; ii) leadership attribution is likely to
be somewhat less strong; and (iii) morale is likely to be somewhat less
high.

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Once emotionally-oriented conflict becomes difficult to retain within a


duo, it seems that dissemination becomes inevitable. So alliance-seeking and
mediation is used as a conflict management technique. But dissemination
requires other organizational members to move outside their normal roles,
to undertake allegiances or to become a toxin handler by acting as mediator
(Frost, 2003). They lose their capacity for belief in the organizations future
viability and morale will decline. When Board members are drawn into
management, they express discomfort with having to abandon their
governance role.
Case E demonstrated overt emotional conflict between the two leaders
and over time involved many organizational relationships above and below
the duo. One subordinate staff member was drawn in to mediate between
the two, but the duos decision-making ability remained limited, because of
the indirect communication. The value and immediacy of first-hand iterative
communication was lost.
Despite the mediation, solutions for major problems were not
discussed or negotiated, and eventually decisions were delayed. The marketing director explained how the ED was affected by the situation:
A couple of times there were some major stress issues going on amongst
the staff, partly because we saw him not making decisions. We saw
things getting put off.
Company members felt responsible to compensate for the lack of
decision-making, and they perceived a leadership vacuum. Leadership attribution was negative. The ED explained the impact on organizational
members:
They felt the tension. They felt the lag in decision-making. They saw
the frustration and the train wreck of budget overspending and they
felt powerless to make a difference. They felt powerless; they didnt feel
that the organization was capable of finding solutions.
The ED suggested that the organizations morale was at a breaking
point, and there was no sense of hope for the future:
the organization began to feel very fractured. Box office hated
Fundraising and Fundraising hated Marketing and Accounting hated
everyone and everyone hated Accounting and everyone hated AD and
nobody wanted to be there and people were coming in late and leaving
early and there were a lot of sick days . . . It was a horrible place
to be.

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The organization was caught in a spiral where emotionally-oriented conflict


had become a mode of operating and this negatively affected morale in the
organization. Many on staff were actively seeking jobs elsewhere, and the
artists of the organization felt insecure.
In a final effort, the ED sought assistance from the Board in order to
restore cost control over the AD and to resolve the pending budget planning
issues. The Boards attribution of leadership to the duo was diminished. Their
discomfort with the demands for allegiance and necessity of greater involvement in the management reduced motivation and morale.
Proposition 2f: When emotionally-oriented conflict in the duo and
conflict dissemination through mediation and/or alliance-seeking up
and/or abdication of decision-making co-occur, then i) operational
functions are likely to be slower; ii) leadership attribution is likely to
be weaker; and (iii) morale is likely to be significantly lower.

Discussion
Two research questions oriented this study of creative organizations. The first
inquired about the dynamics of conflict within the dual executive leadership
relationship, and the other queried the nature of the impact of this relationships dynamics on the organizational members and processes. Two sets of
findings answered these questions. First, when twinned with previously
defined conflict types, conflict dissemination linked conflict dynamics within
the duo to the whole organization. Second, the two co-occurring conflict
constructs influence three organizational processes: operational functions,
leadership attribution and morale.
Researchers of conflict usually examined the phenomenon as it
occurred between two individuals, or within a group. In contrast, this study
looked at the effect of conflict found originally between two parties on the
rest of the organization. This insight is important to creative organizations
because it helps explain some variations of internal stability and its link with
this relatively common structure of leadership in these organizations.
The leadership duo is an arena for balancing and negotiating differences present in the paradoxes normally found in these organizations. When
the duo extended the conflict beyond them, as far as the duo was concerned
the conflict was managed, but this behaviour had an impact by extending
the conflict throughout the organization. In many cases, leadership attribution and morale within the organization were damaged and decisions were
delayed or impaired, creating an unstable situation. While dissemination

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could be helpful on occasion, cases where task-oriented conflict was retained


within the duo were usually constructive and generally more stable. As a
result, the paradox of art versus business was debated and balanced within
the duo, and the rest of the organization was unscathed by the duos conflict.
The study describes how the dual leadership structure works within the paradoxes that dominate these organizations (Lampel et al., 2000) and how this
can affect the organizations processes.

Implications for theory


Given that conflicting values and personal taste dominate the decisionmaking process (Lampel et al., 2000), the challenge of maintaining task
conflict is particularly demanding. The duo represents the two sides of the
art versus business paradox.
Even as a micro-dynamic, this leadership structure has significant influence on the organizations ability to function and achieve its goals and the
duos differences are strategic. This micromacro view of dual executive
leadership in creative organizations enhances our understanding of the
particular challenges of managing these organizations and others like them.
Conflict management theory has traditionally sought to reduce the
impact of negative conflict on relationships between groups and individuals
(Amason, 1996). In this study, destructive conflict in a leadership duos
relationship was found to be disseminated into the organization, in one of
four conflict management behaviours. Ironically, this conflict management
usually has a negative effect on the rest of the organization by escalating
emotional conflict and generating an environment of political allegiances.
Ultimately, there is no final resolution to the conflict and the organization
absorbs the tension. It becomes less efficient; organizational members
become dispirited and less hopeful; and leadership is less effective as a
motivational force for organizational members. Managing conflict by maintaining the discipline of task-oriented conflict appears as the most effective
means of constructively using conflict while avoiding the destructive aspects
of emotionally-oriented conflict. The conflict dynamics found in creative
organizations help shed light on the behavioural impact of organizational
paradoxes.
While research on matrix organizations highlights the impact of
conflict in the relationship between function and project leaders, the
discussion has a normative sensibility. The results reported here suggest a
nuanced and complex set of relationships among conflict types and organizational processes that may provide some insights into conflict and its
management in matrix organizations among others.

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In terms of leadership for creative organizations, dual leadership has


been analysed for its capacity to manage conflict, and ultimately manage the
organization. Our study showed that the conflict management behaviour that
arises from duos at the executive level is a leadership phenomenon within
creative organizations. It may exist elsewhere, but insight regarding this type
of behaviour contributes to leadership and conflict management research
through the study of creative organizations.
These dynamics have implications for executive leadership. The
argument that dual executive leaders cannot coordinate a unified vision for
the organization may or may not be true. Certainly, negative conflict, disseminated in a manner that generates political and challenged relationships
within the organization, can have a particularly damaging effect on the
organization and this dynamic undermines such vision. But there are
instances where the conflict is retained within the duo and the effect is
positive for the organizations processes because decisions are respected and
stability is maintained. In cases like these, a vision is honed and evolved
for the organization as the arguments within the duo explore the fuller
possibilities of the vision. This study demonstrates how an effective vision
for the organization can be a product of a dual executive leadership.
Finally, the use of psycho-analytic theories to study organizations may
be a particularly useful way to explore the dynamics of dual leadership structures in the future. This approach has been a focus of the Tavistock Institute
(Bion, 1961; Jaques, 1976, 1986; Miller, 1990a, 1990b). While the research
in our study provides a conscious, rational view of how conflict unfolds in
a leadership duo, the psycho-dynamic perspective with its focus on the
unconscious dynamics between and around that duo may offer useful,
nuanced, alternative views of how conflict emerges and influences organizational processes.

Implications for management


The study suggested a number of practical considerations. The first insight
involves hiring for dual executive leadership. Hiring either an ED or an AD
is a key responsibility of the Board for a non-profit performing arts organization, as is true for any non-profit organization. Boards of Directors might
want to consider the implications for organizational performance arising
from conflict dynamics in the executive relationship when hiring for either
role. Many hiring processes described in the interviews of this study indicated that the potential relationship was rarely considered. Given their
fiduciary responsibilities outlined in agency theory (Jensen & Meckling,
1976), Boards seemed to emphasize competence in financial, fundraising or

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marketing functions for an ED role. As well, in several cases of newly


structured dual leadership, the Board enthusiastically hired an ED to manage
the AD in a negatively adversarial manner. Since all non-profit Boards are
volunteers and members rarely have professional expertise in the field
(Middleton, 1987; Ostrower & Stone, 2007), the Board often manifests
insecurity about effective monitoring, and could hire an ED that counterbalances the AD in an extreme manner. However, this research demonstrates
that competence in relationships is beneficial to the organization and should
be a further hiring criterion.
Beyond the hiring process, Boards may want to recruit members who
understand and can manage conflict. Lessons might be learned about active
participation by trusted Board members in conflict management, supporting
relationship stability within the leadership duo. A further support for the duo
that the Board could provide might be an organizational coach who understands the dynamics of conflict and its organizational implications.
Finally, this research suggests how strategic the nature of the executive
leadership relationship is for the organization. Incumbent executive leaders
might find it useful to reflect on the nature of their own relationships.
Building confidence from the insights of others experience, those incumbents
might be encouraged to engage in analysing their own conflict dynamics, to
achieve greater likelihood of constructive conflict. Building on this to a
broader context, the nature of a duos relationship may be a topic of
discussion or workshop facilitated within sector meetings. It has already
been a recent source of an annual workshop for dance and theatre leaders
in the US.3

Limitations to the research


The study described here also has some limitations. Parallels exist between
the case organizations in this study and other small- and medium-sized
organizations, but applying qualitative research results to cases outside those
studied can present problems (Yin, 2003).
In his comments about the difficulties of shared leadership at the
executive level, Locke (2003) specifically excluded non-profit organizations,
suggesting that they may be different. Press reports about dual leadership in
the high technology and entrepreneurial firms indicate similarity to the cases
studied here (Prashad, 2006). However, the cases of this study are non-profit
cultural organizations, which we consider to be a type of creative organization. The learning from this study should be useful elsewhere in other
creative enterprises in the for-profit sector, however, the generalization of
these insights has yet to be tested.

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Cross-level analysis should always be approached with caution


(Yammarino et al., 2005). Crossing levels from the dyad to the organization
in this study demands such caution. However, in each case there was only
one set of dual leaders, and so the observations were about these leaders and
their organization.
Furthermore, in this qualitative study it is important to be cautious
when inferring cause and effect. Leadership studies suggest that leadership
impacts on organizations, but in this study the degree and nature may be
influenced by other factors such as the intervention of the Board and its chair,
funding priorities and previous leadership residual impact.
Finally, we chose to focus our attention on the leadership duo and to
use interview data to explore our research questions. Therefore, our results
are likely to reflect the sense-making and conscious cognitive processes of the
respondents. Observational data might have allowed us an opportunity to
access first-hand the conflict dynamics and their consequences. In addition,
observation of the top management team might have allowed us to use alternative theoretical approaches, such as the psycho-dynamic approach to conflict.
Clearly our research choices limited the nature of the insights available from
this study and must be considered in any interpretation of the results.
Despite these concerns and limitations, the insights found in the study
have a number of useful implications for research and practice in creative
organizations.

Future research
The first potential research question focuses on the context of conflict for
creative organizations. This study has treated the range of arts disciplines in
a generic fashion in an attempt to describe the variations in the dynamic
itself. But little was done to deconstruct one art discipline from another.
More cases need to be studied to be able to differentiate factors in each of
the four disciplines covered in the study. Using data that include more cases
for each discipline, and other data from film and journalism might provide
nuances where the organizational mandate plays a role in the conflict
dynamics of the duo.
Second, despite the formal equality of the two leaders, there were
subtle and informal differences of power between the two leaders varying by
case. Further investigation of these power differences might provide
additional insights on the dynamics between the two leaders and their impact
on the organization.
Third, this study examined the impact of conflict on internal organizational processes, but analysis of external stakeholder impressions of the duo

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was abandoned due to complexity in the data. Scholars in the leadership field
claim that impression management by charismatic leaders affects external
perceptions of the organization (Gardner & Avolio, 1998; Sosik et al., 2002).
Research questions might examine stakeholder perceptions of a dual or
multiple leadership structure, the conflict dynamics of that relationship and
the impact on the reputation and on funding of the organization.
Fourth, while these organizations would not claim to be structured
using matrix principles, latent matrix dynamics appear to be at work. Certain
roles like a stage manager in theatre assigned to a specific production might
be, in fact, functioning as a horizontal coordinating function. Investigating
the latent matrix dynamics in these organizations would be an interesting
and useful investigation to undertake. Further, the implications for
matrix-type organizations with a dual executive leadership structure could
be investigated.
Fifth, while the data of this study do not lend themselves to a psychodynamic perspective, there is certainly much to recommend a further
examination of such structures using this theoretical approach. Innovative in
their view that groups and organizations are a phenomenon for psychoanalytic study distinct from an individual (Bion, 1961; Miller, 1990a, 1990b;
Rice, 1965), these theorists understand conflict as a result of unconscious
anxiety and other assumptions of group behaviour. Leadership is a phenomenon that functions within the group or organizational context, responding
to and generating these unconscious group dynamics (Schruijer & Vansina,
2002). Using this lens might generate further theoretical and practical
insights for creative organizations and for multiple leadership in general. As
well, in terms of governance, the examination of a formally mandated dual
leadership and its relationship with the Board may be another context that
lends itself to psycho-dynamic study.
Sixth, also looking at governance, the cases in this study demonstrated
an interesting trend. In the eight years previous to the study, Boards of
Directors in five of the eight cases chose to change the leadership structure
from a single leader to a dual leadership structure following significant
problems of financial control with the single leader. The apparent intent of
the change was to generate more checks and balances in the organization
that could be an expression of governance as understood from agency theory
(Jensen & Meckling, 1976). The duos approach to conflict may influence
the governance dynamic of checks and balances in these organizations.
Seventh, the application of the conflict dissemination construct to
research in other entities and from other levels within organizations
may provide new insights, as well as confirm and extend its usefulness
applied in other fields of study. It is an innovation from the study of creative

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organizations, and has implications for conflict management, and leadership studies.

Conclusion
This study focused on the conflict managed within dual executive leadership
typical in creative organizations and its impact on the organizational
processes through dissemination behaviour. The description of this dynamic
presents a portrait that is particularly important to the field of creative
organizations where conflicts of values, sensibilities and personal tastes
dominate the organization. Much has been said about the existence of the
paradoxes endemic to these organizations, but little has been said about how
they play out as leadership behaviour. This article provides an initial and
exploratory step in that direction.

Acknowledgement
The authors would like to acknowledge many helpful suggestions from Eileen
Fischer, Ann Langley and two anonymous reviewers for Human Relations.

Notes
1
2
3

We would like to thank one of our anonymous reviewers for suggesting the potential
pertinence of this literature.
We would like to thank one of our anonymous reviewers for this suggestion.
Dual Leadership: Partnering from the Inside Out was a three-day seminar produced
by Dance USA and Theatre Communications Group for member leadership duos.
It has been held twice, in 2007 and 2008.

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Appendix A Citations demonstrating constructs in the study (cases are identified


by capital letters)
Construct
Conflict type
Task-oriented
conflict

Exemplary citations

So I think that you know I think thats a very good relationship, a positive
relationship even though we scream at each other at times, and were able to
scream at each other at times because it is positive. (A)
Hes very inclusive. He rarely makes, he certainly doesnt make any difficult
or what might be perceived as controversial decisions without consulting
me. I think thats one of his strengths, hes very open to seeking out my
opinion almost on everything, maybe he goes too far, I dont know. (D)
But theyre also both strong enough to see it as an argument about
something other than their personal egos or personal places. They see it not
as ego-driven. (G)
We meet regularly. It isnt every day, but we exchange our ideas by writing as
well. We look at the project we would like to do, and we discuss it in a very
orderly fashion. (I)
You have to travel together, otherwise, it becomes chaotic. When there are
problems to solve, we do it together. (G)

Process-oriented Thats a subject of some tension within the organization. ED would like to be
conflict
the total face to the Board of everything to do with the symphony. But he
realizes that obviously AD wants to be with the Board too. So what ED tries
to do is only have AD present when hes present and then he can control
that and AD doesnt like that. (I)
There are occasions when I can step back and say, ED, you know, I think
youve just been put under too much pressure by blah blah blah blah blah,
whatever list or the Board or the numbers or whatever it is and I think you
might be being coaxed into something that you might not actually have to
do, or you might be able to do in another way and we can speak to each
other very freely that way. (I)
And it was a really protracted negotiation, and money-wise we were like on
different ends of the world. And he was freaking out, he didnt know me very
well, and he wasnt confident that Id be able to get her, and daily was
haranguing me . . . now were going to have to have one of these six-week
negotiations, and youre just going to have to hold your breath. But its I
guess Im confident well have her, but we have to go through the motions of
the deal. So hell mention it every couple of days, no doubt about it. (B)

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Appendix A

Continued

Construct

Exemplary citations

EmotionallyThey will have disagreements and they will go their separate ways. We dont
oriented conflict actually see them spending much time together. (D)
Its all very polite, and thats being interpreted as were not going to scream
at each other, and maybe were getting to the point where we would actually
solve a few things if we start to scream at each other. (C)
Yeah well were starting to find ourselves in a more polarized position. (C)
Looking at me in the eye, not saying hello to me when he came in, not
coming to any staff meetings, just generally not communicating whatsoever.
And when I would come in, when I would go in and look for him and speak
to him and try and search him out I would get glared at. Long, long silences,
long glares. Just made to feel like I was the enemy. It was very tough. (E)
Conflict dissemination
Internal to duo . . . neither of them go tattling, like its not like AD is running to the Board
with stories about ED, and ED is not running to the Board with stories
about AD. They see that they co-exist together. (B)
And generally, if ED has spoken for both of them, AD will respect that. You
know, he wont try to say like he never would say Why would ED make
that decision? I absolutely disagree with that. Like that would never happen.
And certainly not, he would never publicly say that. He might go back to ED
and say, What were you thinking or Lets talk about this. (A)
If they do argue, they certainly dont do it in front of anyone in the company
that I am aware of and this is an arts organization place, wed all hear about
it within five minutes if they had a big blowout, and we havent. So I think
they have a good relationship. (C)
Advice-seeking

We dont always do what AD says but we do always have to take ADs


suggestion with the respect that it deserves because he does the same for
us. (B)
And ED because he very much aligns himself with AD. Although on a
personal level he may agree with me, on an organizational level its not a
matter of agree or disagree, I dont mean that we have disagreements on
this, we all talk this through and we make it work but we all have different
assessments of risk and ADs entrepreneurial background in a smaller
organization where the risks are smaller . . . (D)
Among the three of us I am on one side of the spectrum, AD on the other
side of the spectrum with ED in the middle mediating and . . . you would
understand that ED makes a fine mediator. He has that skill and he does it
well. (D)

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Appendix A

Continued

Construct

Exemplary citations

Impact of dual executive leadership dynamics

But I instituted, in the summer, a kind of weekly meeting, call it brainstorming,


with himself, with ED, the director of finance xx, who youve met and director
of marketing xx which youre going to meet . . . In which we just kind of
[discuss] blue sky ideas. Because I felt I wasnt getting the opportunity, or we
werent getting the opportunity to just sit around and just talk about . . . EDs
very process oriented, very good at strategic planning and all of that, but
sometimes strategic planning can lead you down the wrong path and so I
wanted to start to question some of our assumptions and had they been
working and, because we changed the way we did some of our programming
and we changed, we basically cut back on our summer season and I thought
we should, we started these meetings in the summer. I think we really needed
to sit and talk about whether whats right, is that move the right way to go,
and any other subjects that . . . so we continued to do that, depending on
everybodys availability, sort of every Friday morning, we meet. (D)
I mean that were all equals. And were just there to spin ideas around and
see what grabs hold and, heres a topic, lets talk about this one. AD might
approach it that way, I dont know about director of marketing xx, but I
know director of finance xx whos told me that, as round as that table may
or may not be, you guys are still the boss. So it isnt absolutely round. My
opinion isnt as equal as your opinion really is what he has said to me. And I
respect that. Because he often says I really wanted to say this at that
brainstorming but I just knew AD was going to take it the wrong way, or I
just knew . . . something like that. So theres still that strategic thinking going
on. Its not absolutely, and I dont know if it will ever get there. But Im
pleased with the mindset we have walking into it and Im pleased that weve
been doing it now since the summertime and we continue to do it. (D)
Alliance-seeking

AD had a little hissy fit yesterday about . . . how hes the only one in this
organization who he was mad because ED hadnt made a phone call about
an artist yet for somebody who he wants for his show18 months down the
road, . . . he made a comment about how hes the one left holding the bag
around here all the time. (B)
And I would say sharing that with your staff is unnerving. You know in terms
of leadership . . . you dont need to see your leader breaking down. You need
to be strong, articulate and calm and focused. You need to inspire, I think you
need to have as a leader you do need to have your confidants that you can
break down with, to be vulnerable with. And I just dont think that weve hit
the right balance here. (C)

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Appendix A

Continued

Construct

Exemplary citations
Well I think he is becoming increasingly critical, the lack of a vision. And so
when having certain kinds of discussions he will provoke that with us, rather
than try to engage AD in some kind of a discussion to move us forward. So
you feel like you are being pulled by the two of them, you know, tends to pull
the family apart, rather than you know how can we help create an
environment where AD can feel the support or whatever he needs to get
past this barrier. Its becoming more confrontational rather than nurturing. (C)
Well, instead of talking to each other, they can send the ball back and forth. I
have that sense from the AD . . . well, even from the ED too. The ED has
never said to me that he didnt want to talk with the AD or that he ever
found him incompetent. But I have to say that the AD has said to me that he
doesnt find the ED competent, um, well maybe . . . not adequate. But from
the ED, I never heard anything like that. But sometimes, there are little
allusions. Like the AD forgot to tell him something: you know how AD is,
he never spoke to me about it. But is that true? Is that really true that they
didnt speak to each other about it and tell us about that . . .? You see, I
dont know really. I doubt it at a certain level. Maybe it is true that they
never spoke about it and they forgot. Or maybe they spoke about it but they
dont want to tell us. But it is a manner of self-protection. (G)

Mediation

From other peoples perspective what wasnt working was just the lack of
mutual respect that was going on, and the tension and all that good stuff. (C)
No they dont argue, they just avoid, and theyre very professional. Nobody
knows its there, and so when . . . both of them will talk to me individually
quite a bit and I can kind of see it coming. I mentioned it to our Pres. and
she said Im not seeing it, and then she started to see it too, so then I just
talked to both of them. She talked to both of them. (C)
It took them a while because theyre both stubborn. These are not rookies
that will be easily swayed from their position. Theyre both a couple of
stubborn types those two, and so I gave them that feedback and so now, you
know, make it work or well make the decisions, and then youll have to live
with what we decide. (C)
I mean because that relationship was so dysfunctional I dont think they even
spoke to each other in the last months. Like I think they spoke through the
(staff xx), and so that put (staff xx) in the middle . . . (C)

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Reid & Karambayya

Appendix A

Continued

Construct

Exemplary citations

Impact of dual executive leadership dynamics

We as a Board did not play a significant role in managing the relationship


between them, you know because I only came on a year and a half ago as a
chair. Youre putting out fires everywhere. If you clear the smoke away you
might get a glimpse that maybe half a year to three quarters of a year into
the year that Ive been there, I started to see: okay theres some problems
here, and you can hear right. I mean you can hear ED saying you know ADs
not or you know ADs whatever it is, I mean you can hear things are
happening. You can hear that theres a problem, but you cant fix it because
theres nothing you can do. (E)
Abdication of
decisions

If there are two, it requires that everyone is completely in agreement. But if


there isnt agreement, it requires someone to decide at some point. And the
tendency is to send it up to the Board. (G)
Well, there are two people involved. This doubles the responsibility of the
Board, and it doubles the complexity of the management of the organization.
And the other problem is that there is no boss. In other words, in any
organization where this structure exists, it requires that there is a boss, and
when there are two people, the conflict, and important decisions are going
to be dealt with by whom? The decisions are currently taken by the
president of the Board. (G)
(Board Treasurer) So I am trying to be that buffer because if the organization
reverts to the structure where the ED cant say anything, cant override,
someone has got to do it. So I feel responsible enough that Im going to
make sure that the decision floats up to me. So without trying to impair
their working relationship . . . (E)

Organizational processes
Operational
Timely
functions
And I think from my colleagues in the business, I think that the perception
there is its a very strong team. I know that ED is one of the first executive
directors, that has actively pursued or has taken an active interest in
pursuing opportunities, I suppose, which will support AD and what he wants
to do. And consequently, its that thats made the company grow. I think that
thats what people will perceive. (A)
I think thats part of his credibility with Board members, is that, you know, its
just so clear hes very passionate about this organization and it being
successful. That gives a lot of confidence from those that have hired him. (A)
I think of ED and I think okay, here we have an organization that is well run. I
mean it is on a level of sophistication of the systems and of the organization,
and the expectations of the senior management and how that is
communicated. (A)

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Continued

Construct

Exemplary citations
I think theres confidence in ED. Theres excitable people, but you know the
Board, I think the Board has confidence in the organization and of the staff
to get the plans made up to address the issues. (C)
I think whats happening is for anybody that works here, they say, we have an
AD thats making it work for us. If we didnt have an AD making it work then
everything else is going to fail. So I think they have in their head, heres what
we need, hes doing what we need to get done. (H)
Slow
It was leaderless in a way, the whole there wasnt anybody naming what we
would become. We were pitching a campaign on dont lose this, dont lose
this beautiful community entity, so we were pitching on our past, not what
we were going to become. (C)
I have been waiting in limbo land and yet as you know decisions are being
made by sponsors, and the kind of money we need is significant, and so, yeah
I mean how much myself do I want to put up there in order to close the
deal if I dont necessarily have the confidence, because again AD is not out
there selling. Im out there selling, and Im out there trying to explain the
vision to the extent I can. But I end up focusing a lot on past
accomplishments, rather than . . . (C)

Leadership
attributions

Strong
ADs leadership style I dont know how to describe it. Hes an arts guy. I
mean I dont understand those people. But I like what he does, you know
from an artistic perspective you know Im trying to figure out how to
understand him, you know and how he comes up with what he does but I
think thats more of a technical issue as opposed to a leadership issue. (B)
And you know what that has kind of given back is undying dedication to him
in this organization. So that to me is a real gift. (B)
And so I think it makes it for the staff they dont get a lot of exposure to
him, so I think that theyre very excited to serve him. Like when he does
speak at company meetings and they do interact with him, theyre very
charged up after. (A)
Well, the two individuals could have strength in the right brain or left brain, so
youve got four parts. Youve got ED who could weigh in and have an
understanding and a deep appreciation of the artistic side and the business
side, and AD who could do the same. Youve got four possibilities. I guess its
possible that, out of four, you could get zero. You could get one of four.
Probably the organizations operating on a kind of two out of four hopefully,
when each guy is good at what they do best. But I think in this situation youve
probably got a three or a three and a half out of four, which is pretty good. (A)
I think everyone would say that they have a really good relationship with one
another and that theres a lot of trust and respect for one another. (A)

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Reid & Karambayya

Appendix A

Continued

Construct

Exemplary citations

Impact of dual executive leadership dynamics

There is a real sense of cohesion between staff and Board at DD. (D)
We like AD so much, we want him to stay, we want him to be happy. (I)
ED I think is well liked by the people who work with him and for him. I think
they have a lot of time for him, I think they work well under his direction
and that he gives them a good amount of scope to achieve their own stuff
and he acknowledges that very well. (B)
We dont always do what AD says but we do always have to take ADs
suggestion with the respect that it deserves because he does the same for
us. (D)
And AD and ED are both I think very highly regarded. (D)
Weak
ED was never available. The last six months he was just never available. He
would be in his office with the door closed, on the phone or email, he would
be out at wherever, meetings or lunches or whatever. There was no
leadership coming from him.(E)
I think leadership disappears in that context absolutely. And I think that
there is an opportunity for other areas of an organization to show
leadership when some areas fail. So if an executive director, as was the case
with me, starts to feel like failure is imminent, and I think there are
opportunities for other areas of the organization to show leadership, and in
my experience at EE, there wasnt any leadership coming from anywhere
else, so it was a spiralling sense of doom. (E)
Morale

High
To me the number one element of success is the reputation it has with the
artists. Everyone tells me its a great place to work, that artists love coming
to work for CC, that often times our pay isnt necessarily in line with what
theyre used to. (C)
You know from not a direct observation but an indirect observation, you
know I understand that the performers love to come back to work with
AD. (B)
Low
Lack of gusto. Lack of energy. Lack of a desire to find a solution. A dwindling
sense of commitment and a growing sense of tension and anger, which really
cuts into productivity. (E)
I think it only becomes an issue and feels bad when you get to the point
where it just feels like its all going to just crumble. Its all just about to fall
apart . . . It felt that something had to happen. He had to leave, I had to leave,
the place had to you know implode, something big was going to happen if
there was no way around this then there is no way we could continue to
pretend this wasnt happening, or you know that kind of thing. (E)

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1112

Human Relations 62(7)

Wendy Reid is Visiting Professor in the Management Department at


HEC-Montral. Having recently completed her doctorate in Organizational Behaviour, she has had an executive management career in
performing arts and public broadcasting organizations in Canada. Her
research interests are in leadership, governance, and group processes in
non-profit and creative organizations.
[E-mail: wendellyn.reid@hec.ca]
Rekha Karambayya is Associate Professor of Organization Studies at
the Schulich School of Business, York University, Canada. Her current
research interests include conflict management, identity and identification
processes in organizations and organizational diversity. Her work has
been published in the Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Organizational Behaviour and Journal of Business Ethics.
[E-mail: rkaramba@schulich.yorku.ca]

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