This is the mantra that most organizations follow and hence, tend to have only one leader at the helm. The hierarchy starts with the CEO and branches out to vice presidents, directors, managers, and further down. The idea is to have one commander lead several troops to avoid chaos, and maintain a decree of order and structure.
While there is nothing incongruous about single leadership organizations, there is another school of thought which advocates creating a pool of leaders to pilot the organization. The popularity of this thought can be mainly attributed to the startup culture where several co-founders wear the leadership hat. And, the reason is very logical.
Someone has the product idea, someone has the right technological know-how to develop it, someone has the expertise to market it, and someone has good people skills. Multiple leaders bring together diverse and specialized skill sets, but have common mindsets. So, they strive to achieve the same vision, but contribute in their own ways. One leader can’t exist without another. They all are masters of none, but complement each other just perfectly.
But, would not having too many leaders on the board create ego and power clashes as well as lack of role clarity among the followers (employees)? Well, such conflicts can arise in any situation, in any hierarchy model – among and within the leaders and teams. What really matters is that they trust each other and take accountability for their responsibilities.
It is also interesting how we associate leadership with only the topmost or senior positions. But, for every layer of hierarchy, there is a seniority attached to it. So, a vice president leads several project heads beneath him and each project head leads several managers beneath them. That way, every individual in the organization is exhibiting leadership qualities and collaborating in parallel with other leaders on the same level. Eventually, the organization is running in the hands of numerous leaders, the only difference being that the hierarchy tier changes.
The multiple or paired leadership model can work for any organization, irrespective of its size and nature. Every person is the leader supported by another leader. They brainstorm together to produce creative outcomes and work with a single purpose in the mind.
It is when the pools of leaders come together, that the organization can be effective enough to accomplish the desired vision and productive results.