Co-leadership & Topsharing Canvas

Co-leadership set-ups, like Co-CEOs, are frequently dismissed as being too complicated or impractical. One criticism is that the organization needs to know who exactly is in charge of things. To avoid this risk, we suggest carrying out a crucial design exercise for co-leadership set-ups in order to clarify responsibilities for stakeholders and to make it more likely you’ll realize the benefits of topsharing in your organization.

Topsharing, such as Co-CEO roles, is frequently dismissed as being complicated, confusing, and leading to endless alignment work or power struggles, which risks leaving the organization without clear guidance and results in endless second-guessing.

On the other hand, the idea seems to be gaining prominence with practitioners for some sound practical reasons, not least in contexts where companies are getting real about new work.

For example, one coaching client of ours, an international hotel and catering company, chose a co-leader setup for its largest home market business division. The co-leader tandems (in fact there were two tandems, each aligned per market segment) were split along the lines of market development and operations: winning business and running the business.

In this blog, we have previously recommended treating co-leader tandems as special kinds of teams - and not as special kinds of leaders. In our experience, team-oriented thinking leads to the most productive design and development approach for topsharing structures.

In order to get your co-leader set-up right, you need to define and clearly communicate to the organization which person in the topsharing tandem is responsible for which tasks, as well as which topics the tandem is working on together.

The worksheet canvas below can be used to work out the details for your organization.

In our experience, it works well to move through the elements of activities, deliverables, and decisions to be made. Those three can be amended by the dimensions of the goals on the top and the key stakeholders / interfaces at the bottom.

The output is a formal charter for the shared leadership work, that reduces organizational confusion while creating double capacity at the shared top level.

This article is also available on our blog - explore further links to our blog articles related to high-performing teams


Do you have any questions on this part of the Kit? Send us a note using the comments section below (comments are not displayed publicly) or send an e-mail to [email protected].