The Co-Ceo: Sharing Power From The Top

The co-CEO model has been around for some time now. Some companies have seemed to make it work and others ummm….. not so much. It seems to work in limited cases and it has failed miserably in others. The co-CEO peoplesharingarrangement involves 2 or more people sharing the decision-making duties from the top of the company. It’s been around for a long time but not so openly discussed.

Many times in sharing top management duties there can be power struggles. There are some well known companies who continue to use this model such as Bed, Bath N’ Beyond, Charles Schwab, Martha Stewart, Citigroup and others. Many professionals seem to disagree on power sharing for the head of a company. They feel that it’s not good for the company as a whole. Some feel that it has lead to the downfall of many good corporations.

Do you see this as becoming an option for your business?

Some companies have been known to have three, count ’em three co-Chairmen and three CEOs. Many times it all depends on the size of the company, what’s involved and the industry. It’s quite different from a co-leadership model. In the co-leadership model, the leader works closely with another person or committee in the top management. On some occasions, if the co-CEO position comes about because of a merger, there can be a power struggle rising instead of power-sharing.

This model can be an effective way to run an organization if communication lines are clear and everyone understands who is doing what. If a co-CEO arrangement is made, then the executives should put their personal agendas & egos aside for the good of the company, check ’em at the door. The only thing worse than an overly hierarchical organization is ambiguity. The CEO’s job should be more about getting the job done correctly, moving a company forward and less about titles. When the roles of each individual are clearly outlined with no room for guessing, then that helps in collaboration with employees and other management.

This type of relationship takes development of a healthy relationship where the top executives have confidence in each other, true commitment, teamwork, close alignment & effective  collaboration throughout the company as a whole. Effective collaboration can lead to better management, more creative thinking and a leaner organization. Many times some companies seek out the co-CEO model instead of the traditional CEO and president line up. Sometimes you’ll see the co-CEO model more in family-owned organizations.

The co-CEO management can lead to better decision-making, extra inspiration for others & lower chances of CEO burnout. Sometimes two heads are better than one. This can be an effective model for succession planning where the eventual successor to the CEO position acts as co-CEO for a while with the departing leader. 

Companies should not just leap head first into the co-CEO arrangement. It may not be the quick fix to business problems that you are facing. It should be taken into careful consideration by all those involved. It must be known that this type of business model can flop at anytime if managed poorly or put in place for the wrong reasons.


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