Co-Directors: A Comparative Look at Shared Leadership

Leadership is a crucial element in an organization’s success, and it involves making strategic decisions, managing resources, and overseeing a team of employees. Traditionally, organizations have followed a hierarchical leadership model, where one person is in charge of making decisions and guiding the company. However, with changing times and a need to adapt to the evolving workplace, many organizations have started to adopt a shared leadership model, where two or more leaders share the responsibilities of leading.

Co-directors, also known as co-CEOs or co-leaders, are two executives who share the role of leading a company, organization, or non-profit. This type of leadership emerged in the early 2000s and has been gaining popularity ever since. In this article, we will examine what it means to be a co-director, compare it with traditional leadership models, and discuss some frequently asked questions about this approach to leadership.

What is a Co-Director?

A co-director is an alternative form of leadership where two or more executives share the responsibility of managing an organization. The co-directorship can be split in a variety of ways – for example, each co-director may have different areas of expertise, such as finance, marketing, operations or human resources. Alternatively, each co-director may oversee a different business unit or division. In some cases, each co-director might be equal in authority and decision-making power, while in other cases, one person might be designated as the primary decision-maker.

Co-directorship has become increasingly popular in high-growth or startup companies due to the rapid pace of change and the need for agile decision-making. Since two brains are better than one, the benefits of co-directorship include being able to leverage the complementary strengths and skills of multiple leaders, increased diplomacy when there is disagreement, shared risk-taking, and the ability to spread workload more equitably among multiple individuals.

How Does Co-Directorship Compare to Other Forms of Leadership?

Co-directorship is just one type of shared leadership, but it’s a more common one. Here are a few other forms of shared leadership and how they compare with co-directorship.

1. Dual Leadership

Dual leadership is similar to co-directorship, where two top executives share the role of leading an organization. However, in dual leadership, one executive is usually seen as having more authority and influence than the other. The leader with more influence may be ultimately responsible for making final decisions, or their opinion may carry more weight in key decisions.

2. Matrix Management

Matrix management is a leadership style where employees report to two different bosses or managers, instead of just one. The matrix management model is often used in organizations that have multiple locations, cross-functional departments, or overlapping responsibilities. While co-directorship is about sharing power at the very top of the company, matrix management is about sharing accountability and control across the organization.

3. Collective Leadership

Collective leadership is about sharing leadership at all levels of the organization. It involves empowering employees to be active problem-solvers and decision-makers. Collective leadership can be achieved in many ways, such as through employee participation in decision-making, collaborative decision-making among peer teams, and employee ownership.

Co-directorship is unique in its concentrated focus on sharing top-level leadership. This type of leadership often requires a high level of trust, clear communication, defined decision-making processes and crucially, the humility to accept feedback and dissenting opinions. Co-directorship may be useful for organizations with executive power struggles or if a current leader is nearing retirement while there is an appointment process happening.

FAQs on Co-Directors

1. How Does Co-Directorship Affect Company Culture?

Co-directorships can affect company culture in a few ways. The presence of multiple leaders can help minimize the risk of groupthink, where only one person’s opinion is heard. Additionally, co-directorship can promote a more collaborative and inclusive decision-making process, which can foster a culture of respect, trust, and innovation. It’s essential to communicate the decision-making process to the company teams so that all employees understand how they fit into the business goals.

2. How Can Co-Directors Effectively Communicate with Employees?

Communication is key when it comes to co-directorship. This leadership model works best when both leaders are aligned in their vision for the company and share open and honest communication networks. Both co-directors must be transparent in their communication with all employees so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to company goals, priorities and objectives. Writing shared email updates, attending regular company-wide events, and dividing responsibilities such as divisional responsibilities or investor relations can be very helpful.

3. Can Co-Directors Work Remotely?

Co-directorship comes with challenges, especially when they are working from different physical locations. Technology such as video conferencing, cloud-based software and other web tools can very helpful in this regard. Co-Directors can choose to work in different parts of the country or even different continents, but a strong implementation plan with regular video conferencing and team check-ins can ensure the team stays aligned.

4. What are the Potential Pitfalls of Co-Directorship?

One potential pitfall of co-directorship is disagreements about major strategic decisions. If the co-directors agree to the approach of having “no-winners” then default to a compromise solution where both sides make tradeoff decisions to meet in the middle, such disagreements can be avoided altogether. Other potential pitfalls could include one co-director overpowering the other, diluting the authority of a co-director, unclear lines of ownership or liabilities or general confusion about how job responsibilities will be divided among the leadership team.


Co-directorship is a leadership model that has benefits and potential risks. Ultimately, the effectiveness of co-directorship depends on careful planning and execution, good communication systems, and a shared sense of business vision and strategy. The most important skill for a co-director is often humility and the ability to work with others. Historically this has been a rare characteristic of CEOs whose authority and power have been carved out over decades of corporate cultures that hinged on authoritarian ideals. With modern, more collaborative working practices, co-directorship may continue its upwards trend as boards and investors try to recruit a new generation of compassionate leaders who lead with inclusivity and humility.