Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 22, Issue 50;   December 21, 2022: Attributes of Joint Leadership Teams

Attributes of Joint Leadership Teams


The leadership of most teams, business units, or enterprises consists of a single individual. Others have joint leadership teams. What kinds of joint leadership teams are there, and what factors can affect their success?
A team of horses harnessed to pull a coach

A team of horses harnessed to pull a coach. Teams of horses of four or more must resolve many of the issues a joint leadership team must resolve. They do so under the guidance of the team's human driver. This configuration has much in common with a captive joint leadership team.

A variety of conditions lead some organizations to delegate jointly to more than one person primary responsibility for a business unit, task force, or project. The idea that more than one person can have "primary" responsibility for something is a bit of a puzzle, but nevertheless, it's a common situation. It can work well. And it can also develop into a potful of trouble. If you find yourself inclined to establish one of these configurations, or you're a co-leader yourself, or you work in or with a unit that has joint leadership, it's advantageous to know the risks. Knowing what kinds of problems can develop, and knowing what limitations these structures have, can be helpful. This post is a high-level view of the kinds of factors that can affect the performance of joint leadership teams (JLTs). I'll be exploring JLTs in more detail in coming posts.

Attributes of joint leadership teams

One way of categorizing JLTs is according to the size of the leadership group. Dyads, triads, tetrads, … all are possible. Probably the most common form of JLT is the pair, in which just two people are designated as having primary responsibility for the effort. Often, the number of co-leaders is determined by political considerations, especially when the group is supposed to "represent" the interests of a set of teams or business units. See "The Politics of Forming Joint Leadership Teams," Point Lookout for January 4, 2023, for more.

Other factors that affect the risk profile facing the leadership group include, as examples, the factors below.

Group longevity
The group Probably the most common form of joint
leadership team is the pair, in which just
two people are designated as having
primary responsibility for a group effort
can be a short-term task force, a project, a long-lived business unit, an entire enterprise, or something else. Groups with longer lifetimes face greater external risks, as the rest of the enterprise has more time to mobilize its political capabilities.
Breadth of knowledge required
The group might be trying to achieve something that requires a broad base of knowledge, best provided by a group of leaders. Settings in which success depends on divergent practices, assumptions, values, beliefs, or rules are likely to find JLTs appealing. [Gibeau 2016] Although a JLT might be appealing at first, it's important to weigh carefully the advantages and disadvantages of the JLT approach.
Sources of funding
In some cases, the organizations that provide funding for the group require specific persons to have leadership positions. This is one way funders can manage risks related to lack of knowledge about some of the leadership candidates. Unfortunately, although the JLT configuration might offer some comfort in that respect, it brings along risks of its own.
A captive JLT is one that's embedded in an organization. Examples include the leadership teams of projects, task forces, task teams, or business units. These are likely the most common forms of JLTs. Members of a captive JLT are subject to the performance standards of the host organization, and (usually) supervision by a responsible superior. These mechanisms provide some mitigation of the risk of toxic conflict within the JLT.

Last words

In next week's post, I explore the properties of JLTs that affect their agility. In two weeks, I examine the organizational politics of forming JLTs. And in three weeks, I examine some risks that are specific to JLTs.  Next in this series Go to top Top  Next issue: Joint Leadership Teams: OODA  Next Issue

Great Teams WorkshopOccasionally we have the experience of belonging to a great team. Thrilling as it is, the experience is rare. In part, it's rare because we usually strive only for adequacy, not for greatness. We do this because we don't fully appreciate the returns on greatness. Not only does it feel good to be part of great team — it pays off. Check out my Great Teams Workshop to lead your team onto the path toward greatness. More info


[Gibeau 2016]
Émilie Gibeau, Wendy Reid and Ann Langley. "Co-leadership: Contexts, Configurations and Conditions," in "The Routledge Companion to Leadership, John Storey, Jean Hartley, Jean-Louis Denis, Paul 't Hart, and Dave Ulrich, eds., pp. 225-240. Available here. Retrieved 3 December 2022. Back

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenZLkFdSHmlHvCaSsuner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Virtual and Global Teams:

Don't rely solely on your spell checkerEmail Antics: III
Nearly everyone complains that email is a time waster. Yet much of the problem results from our own actions. Here's Part III of a little catalog of things we do that help waste our time.
A Katrina rescue in New OrleansLong-Loop Conversations: Asking Questions
In virtual or global teams, where remote collaboration is the rule, waiting for the answer to a simple question can take a day or more. And when the response finally arrives, it's often just another question. Here are some suggestions for framing questions that are clear enough to get answers quickly.
The freshman class of the 2012 U.S. CongressSocial Entry Strategies: II
When we first engage with a group at work, we employ social entry strategies to make places for ourselves to carry out our responsibilities, and to find enjoyment and fulfillment at work. Here's Part II of a little catalog of social entry strategies.
Images of people captured in a phoneToward More Engaging Virtual Meetings: I
Keeping attendees engaged in virtual meetings is a widely sought but rarely achieved objective. Here is Part I of a set of simple techniques to help facilitators enhance attendee engagement.
Working remotely, in this case, from homeRemote Hires: Communications
When knowledge-oriented organizations hire remote workers, success is limited by the communications facilities they provide. Remote hires need phones, computers, email, text, video, calendars, and more. Communications infrastructure drives productivity.

See also Virtual and Global Teams and Conflict Management for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Vulture getting ready to strike a dying prey, KenyaComing March 29: Time Slot Recycling: The Risks
When we can't begin a meeting because some people haven't arrived, we sometimes cancel the meeting and hold a different one, with the people who are in attendance. It might seem like a good way to avoid wasting time, but there are risks. Available here and by RSS on March 29.
Bust of Aristotle. Marble. Roman copy after a Greek bronze originalAnd on April 5: The Fallacy of Division
Errors of reasoning are pervasive in everyday thought in most organizations. One of the more common errors is called the Fallacy of Division, in which we assume that attributes of a class apply to all members of that class. It leads to ridiculous results. Available here and by RSS on April 5.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenZLkFdSHmlHvCaSsuner@ChacbnsTPttsdDaRAswloCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.