A major global PR agency recently announced that they were doing away with their co-CEO arrangement. Believe it or not, they had three individuals holding the co-CEO title.
Leadership can be shared, but ultimate responsibility for day-to-day business decisions cannot.
Harry S Truman’s desk sign didn’t say “the buck stops here … and here … and here.”
When more than one person is responsible for something, nobody ends up being truly responsible.
Even if all of the co-leaders get along well, communicate excellently, and share similar visions, there will likely be problems.
The reality is that when there is almost always a “first among equals” in these arrangements — but that primacy is often unknown outside of a very small circle.
Transparency over responsibility should win out over the ego-stroking of the top title.
Often these arrangements come about to keep a group of talented leaders happy. The idea is that if they have the top title — even after being watered down with the “co-” prefix — they will be satisfied.
But real Number Ones want the title AND the responsibility. They thrive on knowing that they are the last stop for big decisions.
And real future Number Ones understand how to navigate other roles and work collaboratively with the ultimate leader.
There are other ways to reward top performers. Compensation can be boosted, portfolios expanded, and responsibilities increased — all without resorting to a convoluted management structure.
Businesses should stop pretending that co-leadership arrangements work. They rarely stand the test of time and often create tension and confusion for as long as they do survive.