Why More Companies Should Adopt Dual Leadership in Key Management Roles

Friday, September 30, 2022

The world of work is changing more rapidly than it has perhaps in decades. In order to attract top talent, companies need to make their business units agile, make teamwork effortless and build ecosystems within their departments that are capable of strategic decision-making in a fast-paced business world.

Article 5 Minutes
Why More Companies Should Adopt Dual Leadership in Key Management Roles

Terms such as “new work” or “new normal” are on everyone's lips. Associated with this are ideals of flat hierarchies, flexible working hours and locations and social integration. However, such ideas can only be carried out if people at the management level are aware of them and the management style adapts to them.

One way to implement the idea of new work in management is the co-leadership model as an alternative to traditional leadership roles, where one person is in charge of the whole department and multiple teams.

But how can a successful co-leadership model be implemented? What conditions have to be created and what does everyday work look like? The answer is three-folded: organizations need to consider the company's benefit while taking into account the whole department or team, and not forget how the synergies work in relation to the management duo itself.

Here are some of the main things companies should consider when wanting to implement dual leadership models.

Appreciate expertise instead of generalism

At Futurice, before the joint leadership was introduced, all marketing was managed and coordinated by a single CMO. As the sole manager, you have an overview of the department as a whole, but due to the time required, you can’t always take care of the individual development of individual employees or, for example, the further development of the content of the different departments.

It's simply unrealistic for one person to be an expert in everything, especially in a field as broad as marketing. It becomes even more difficult when the team is spread across different locations and thus also serves different markets.

If you want to implement the model of shared responsibility, it quickly becomes apparent that this involves major changes. In order for two strong experts to frictionlessly share responsibilities, brutally honest self-reflection has to take place.

What are my strengths and weaknesses? What can I contribute and what am I good at? What should our team look like?

Depending on how the answers turn out, tasks and responsibilities should be divided accordingly. If one partner is better at organizing and planning, these tasks will fall within their area, while the other utilizes their strengths in creative writing or moderating meetings and presentations.

The goal is a balanced distribution of administrative tasks so that only crucial tasks - such as general strategy, budget issues and team development - are really done together. Sharing admin tasks saves time and creates space to concentrate on professional priorities. Mutual trust again plays the central role: trusting that you are working towards a common goal keeps you motivated and trust in your team work is solid.

Align company values and team structures

The structure of individual departments is always embedded in a larger whole: the corporate structure and culture. Both must reflect openness and cooperation. In order for dual leadership to work, the company needs to embrace the following values:

  • Transparency: Relevant information is shared with everyone and thought processes are exposed in order to have the knowledge and tools to make the right decisions - not only at management level.
  • Trust: Strategies and decisions should be developed and made together. The basic assumption is: Everyone works in a way that would benefit both the team and themselves.
  • Appreciation: Employees aren’t only seen as workers, but as people with individual needs and interests.
  • Further development: Skills and know-how of employees should be promoted in a targeted manner and potential exploited. This includes learning from successes and failures - and that requires recognizing and embracing them.

Together, these elements create a culture that fits into an open and trusting leadership style. The new distribution of roles must be clearly communicated and explained to the team and so that structures, responsibilities, and rules are understood and trust is created.

Include the whole team in decision-making

An example of how the entire marketing team at Futurice is involved in decisions is setting quarterly goals and key results. The management duo makes suggestions to the team, which everyone can comment on and add to and vote for. The vote usually shows a good trend as to where the journey should go in this quarter.

If this isn’t the case, you have to ask more precisely and find out the root causes for different opinions. This heavy-lifting would be almost impossible to do alone. By involving the whole team in decision-making you are giving them the sense of ownership and feeling that they have the power to affect their work – both very crucial in talent retention and development.

And finally…

One thing is clear: introducing a co-leadership model doesn’t just mean replacing one person with two. The leadership approach needs to fit into the organizational structure and fit the makeup of the team you lead. Also, ideally, your company employs somewhere between 400 and 1000 employees for this model to work as well as it can. However, if the framework is set, the co-leadership model promises success and takes the new work idea to a new level.

Leadership duo

The position in a leadership tandem gives each party the great opportunity to grow in a safe environment. Because you have another person at your side who is struggling with the same challenges and you can find solutions together. As in any leadership role, you learn to deal with responsibility. In addition, you also learn how to make, weigh up and discuss decisions together in a trusting team and sometimes put your own interests aside. You can also step away from the role of department head who only touches on topics superficially - the time saved allows you to deal with content and further develop the team.


The open and equal structure enables the entire team to get involved. The management duo supports the employees as mentors. The duo listens to the team when important decisions are made. This approach only works if there’s enough time and space at the management level to deal with the personal development of the team members.


The division of labor at the top also creates the resources to continue to deal with the further development of the department and to be able to drive it forward. Last but not least, working as a duo is also a signal to the rest of the company: trust and transparent cooperation is more important to us than competition. This strengthens the elements of corporate culture mentioned above.

Simone Mitterer and Essi Knuutila

As Global Head of Brand and Communications and part of the Global leadership team, Simone Mitterer leads the brand communication of Futurice from Munich.
As Global Head of Digital Marketing, Essi Knuutila leads the company's digital marketing from Helsinki. She is also part of the management team of Futurice Finland.


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