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How can a co-leadership attitude help new managers?

An IML ANZ Member and training and development expert invites us to rethink our views on how we can empower newly promoted leaders. Can they become better leaders by embracing a co-leadership mindset?

When one thinks about rangatiratanga (leadership) and what it means to be a leader, one tends to think about your relationships with your staff or your boss. Words that spring to mind are empathy, transparency, flexibility, staff development, professional development, etc. The list can sometimes be endless. Rarely does co-leadership spring to mind. What emphasis and importance does one put on the relationship between two co-leaders?

The challenges

It would be expected that each leader is responsible for the deliverables and outputs of their delegated team(s) and that both leaders of the various teams will have a good working relationship, but how do you navigate as an effective leader when you are stuck with a co-leader that does not share the same values and beliefs as you do, that leadership for them is only in the title of their role, and there is almost no display of leadership qualities?

The challenge is also when people are put into leadership roles because they have done well in a technical role. This is common in organisations that have a culture of promoting from within. There is no issue whatsoever with internal promotion, but this becomes a problem when:

  1. an individual has done well in a technical role but may not necessarily possess strong leadership skills
  2. a person is promoted based on their connections within senior leadership.

In (a) above, leaders can resolve the challenge if the organisation provides the necessary tools and professional development for the individual. The major problem comes up if the individual has been selected in (b) above. Having close connections to members of senior leadership may set up this individual to have the wrong expectations about working with other leaders. It would not be easy to foster a healthy attitude and approach towards co-leadership in this situation.

Mumtaz Parker CMgr FIML

How to foster a co-leadership attitude

So, how can you foster a co-leadership attitude within your organisation?

  • Be clear and consistent about how you promote leaders. It is the responsibility of the senior leadership team and ultimately the CEO to ensure that personal agendas do not trump the organisation’s goals, mission, and vision. Promoting people into leadership roles should be done based on the skills, values and competencies the person brings to the role. If everyone in your management understands that they are working among equals, it will be easier to cultivate a co-leadership attitude.
  • Equip new managers with essential skills. The best way to ensure that your newly promoted leaders can work cooperatively is to provide them with the essential skills that make them good managers. This may include developing their emotional intelligence, communications skills and other people management skills that they need to lead confidently and collaboratively.
  • Foster the factors that lead to high staff retention. Leaders who willingly work together often share a similar appreciation for their workplace culture. If senior leadership is careful to look at the factors that lead to high staff turnover, they can address these before losing good, hardworking people. Plus, high morale and productivity will also make it easier for leaders of different teams to collaborate as co-leaders.

Mumtaz Parker is a Chartered Manager, has a Master of Professional Practice in Leadership and is a Fellow of IML ANZ. She is an experienced leader and expert in the learning and development field. Currently, she is the training and development manager at Water New Zealand.

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