Thoughts of an evolving leader — co-leadership or contra-leadership
When I transitioned into my current leadership role, I jumped into a luxurious position: I was not alone. I shared the role with two more people who had more experience than me. So, I was able to learn from them and never really had a feeling of being lost. They helped me to get up to speed but at the same time fully accepted me as one of them. We had discussions on eye level and worked well together. But this did not come from nothing.
When we came together as a group we consciously said: Before we start working together, we want to align our goals and how we want to work together. We had in total three full days of workshops dedicated to this topic (not counting the in between routine meetings). This really was valuable, and I can only recommend this for any group to form a team: You will have the possibility to align to a common goal, prevent misunderstandings and resolve conflicts about values and alignment before even starting any work.
This will help you work with more energy and motivation together and prevent bigger hiccups along the way. As people have a common basis of understanding even communication will be more efficient. As you can almost predict decisions when everybody thinks the same way.
However, there are also negative things I noticed, which are coming up because of this setup:
When there were more complex or one might say “harder” decisions, we started out with always wanting to resolve conflicts with a compromise. This led to everlasting discussions. Over time we learned to give in to others’ opinions and rather try things out one way or another and learn from it, than to find a (mostly) mediocre solution. Democracy is not always good, and it can massively slow down a process.
The second one was: Vacations. It might seem a good thing, that there is someone there, in case the others are on vacation, the problem is that with three people, we also took on the responsibility of three team leads. It continuously happened that, even though we were quite careful in handing over our current topics to each other when we went on vacations, there were still important topics, we had stakes in. The problem here is that they come up so seldomly, that we did not hand them over. To cope with this, I started asking:
If something unexpected will be happening while I am gone, what is it?
This helps me to prepare my colleagues for even less expected situations.
So far, I still am more than happy to be with my two co-leaders, and I have a feeling that it might not change soon. I know not everyone might be in this luxurious position to have experience at their side, therefore I am thankful for this situation.
In case you are alone in your leadership, I still have some thoughts coming up in my next article which might be able to support you. Till then,