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Dual Leadership Model: When Two Run One

Updated November 2021. First published November 2020.

Dual leadership - 2 leaders looking at documents

The traditional leadership models, where there is one manager per department, are the most common in organizations. However, there are other structures that may work best with particular organizations and their missions.

One model to explore is dual leadership, where two individuals with the same level and authority manage a team. Although this type of organizational structure adds a layer of complexity, it can offer multiple benefits:

  • Increased creativity: Contrast is very important: creativity happens when there are opportunities for disagreements and fruitful discussions. Pairs should be selected judiciously; personalities should complement each other,

  • Reduced blind spots: a partner will validate your decisions and provide a different perspective before making important conclusions.

  • Leaders can be more persuasive: they have to run ideas constantly by someone else. Managers may have stronger arguments once they are able to convince their partners and are ready to communicate their decisions to the rest of their teams.

  • Divide and conquer: more can be achieved, expanding a team's depth and breadth of expertise.

  • Reduced burnout: pressure is shared. Although each leader has clear responsibilities, new projects can be achieved as a result of joint efforts.

  • Higher personal growth – and inherent succession plan. More people with further leadership and learning opportunities.

  • Minimized disruptions: When a manager leaves the firm, there is another individual who can keep up with the to-do’s and train their next partner.

What are the challenges?

  • Payroll can be higher. Organizations will have more higher-level employees on their payroll.

  • Individuals in a leadership capacity need to be open to feedback. Some may have a more challenging time getting used to a constant feedback culture. There may be a need for training and HR support while leaders adapt to the new culture.

  • There is a need for a clear compensation strategy that explains how salaries, titles, and promotions work for partners. This model tends to push organizations to be equitable for leaders within the same department. However, a firm could specify how salaries may differ if some have specialized knowledge, for example.

  • This model requires high-communicative teams and processes. In order for this framework to work, organizations have to be communicative and transparent.

  • Leaders need to be ok with their partners making some decisions by themselves. Not all decisions can require both leaders to weigh in; otherwise, this structure can slow progress. Partners should also trust their colleagues and back them up.

  • Beware of redundancy. Job descriptions should be cautiously designed to ensure leaders have different responsibilities within the same unit. Also, they should state the levels of accountability that partners have.

  • Power dynamics. Pairs that are not carefully selected can have more opportunities for confrontation and conflict.

This leadership model may sound controversial. Nevertheless, it may work great for some organizations that are struggling with their current traditional management styles. In reality, we tend to have partners in many aspects of our lives; we are used to run ideas by others and compromise in a daily basis. The need for collaboration has reached many sections of our work; could leadership be the future?

Please contact Kiwi Partners' HR Services if you need assistance with planning your organizational structure.


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