Why co-leadership actually works

Individual leaders, in the right setup, can succeed and lead companies to greatness. But no one has all the answers and, as Tim Cook recently told The Washington Post, it can be lonely at the top. Those reasons and more are why I enjoy the structure we have here at Amway -- a co-leadership approach where I share the top role with our company’s chairman, Steve Van Andel.

Here’s why I think co-leadership works, and some advice for anyone else considering this approach to management.

The model of partnership and compromise trickles down to the rest of the workforce

Co-leadership requires you to listen to someone else’s opinion and sharpen your own opinions based on fact. And if everyone is doing that, you get better solutions and better results in the end. It is a shining example for a company to have that kind of collaboration at the very top.

But, you have got to want to do it. You must want to improve yourself, and you have to believe there are other good ideas people have and that you’re not the only source of good ideas. You need to know someone else has your back and that everyone is thinking about the same team goals.

Partnership is so empowering because you don’t create divisions, silos or factions. Partnership allows people to work together toward common goals. It proves that people are better together -- everyone can bring their strengths to the table, figure out how to make decisions together and align them with common values and goals.

For any two leaders thinking of pursuing a co-leadership structure, it is imperative to start with the same foundation.

The two must be able to work through things differently, talk, listen and collaborate. This doesn’t mean to never disagree. But when you do, it shouldn’t end the conversation. Keep talking and determine the best way to come to a compromise that best serves the company as a whole.

This provides a built-in "checks and balances" system, so two people are vetting any new idea or difficult decision.

Use the dynamic between the 2 individuals to shape the company culture

This culture is shaped by consistently telling a story -- talking about not only what you do, but also why.

International organizations especially need to be true to a set of values. And when you can articulate values such as partnership, integrity and personal worth, people can identify with them. As the organization gets bigger, it’s even more critical to have those belief systems that hold you together as one unit -- transcending cultures, local customs and regional viewpoints.

 

Doug DeVos is the president of Amway, which has over 19,000 employees in over 100 countries and territories around the world. Amway is ranked 29th on Forbes’ Largest Private Companies list, bringing in $9.5 billion of revenue annually. DeVos is also chairman of the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations.

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