Given the rate of change and rate of disruptions in Investment Services industry, does the concept of shared leadership at the top / co-ceo makes sense for Merriman? A number of organizations especially sports organizations have taken lead in shared responsibilities at the top. We at Oak Spring University believe that Merriman can explore Shared Leadership at the top model to streamline operations, build and execute comprehensive strategic goals, and deliver higher returns to the shareholders.
As Merriman is operating in highly VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous - environment, it needs to be an agile organization. Co-CEO / shared leadership model can help Merriman in Investment Services to better manage uncertainty and ambiguity arising out of – technology based disruptions, cloud computing is disrupting traditional business models, advancements in technology, environmental laws, supply chain disruptions, wage bills increases, geo-political development ,
social and demographic changes, climate change, etc
Shared Leaderhsip Characteristics and Requirements for Merriman
Mechanism for conflict resolution
Before starting with the shared leadership at the top, Merriman needs to put in place the conflict resolution mechanism. When there are multiple views at the top then conflict is bound to happen and organization needs to have a conflict resolution mechanism. For example at Oracle and SAP, co-ceo model is managed by a strong executive chairman who could step in to resolve conflict and provide focus.
It is prudent to choose shared leadership among partners who have shared values and those values are consistent with the values of the organization. To succeed in a partnership, the co-CEOs need to have a relationship based on trust, respect, honesty, and willingness to compromise.
Shared leadership is fast developing into an accepted practice among highly complex industries. In various other industries it not only requires the buy-in from the employees but also at the board level. The board of directors play a critical role in setting up the common objectives of the organization. As co-CEOs are responsible to execute on those goals, they need complete support of the board. The board also needs to act both as a facilitator and as a conflict resolution body for strategic questions.
Shared leadership / Co-CEO model at Merriman requires willing partners, who want to share the responsibilities and accountabilities at the top. The team based approach at the top will require leaders – an ability compromise more and ability to communicate effectively. Certainly the co-leadership model fails when one partner is willing to dominate the overall process. Secondly if both the leaders have vastly different personalities then the shared leadership model won’t survive for long.
Complimentary skill sets
One of the reasons why organizations like to have diverse teams is that diverse team members bring complimentary and diverse skill sets. The same applies for shared leadership at the top. Both leaders need to have complimentary skill sets so that they can provide a more comprehensive leadership to solve the challenges that the organization is facing in uncertain and ambiguous business environment in Investment Services industry
An appearance of unity
People at the organization are quick to identify differences, when the two CEO are having difference of opinion. This creates an environment of uncertainty, confusion, and indecision in the organization. To avoid uncertainty and present a common vision, leaders at Merriman need to have an appearance of unity even when personally they have difference of opinions.
Clear responsibilities and decisions rights
Clear responsibilities and decision rights are both a science and art. Organization structure at Merriman can specify the areas of responsibilities and decision rights but the working relationship has to be built by the leaders themselves.
Fully shared accountability
It sounds obvious that both CEO must be accountable for the overall performance, but it is rarely the case in real life. Once the performance is not up to the goals set then it can chain start the process of accountability deflection within the organization. Secondly from the compensation perspective, both the CEOs should be compensated equally by Merriman.
If Merriman choose the shared leadership at the top / co-CEO model then it also has to have an exit strategy post the current leadership stage. Shared leadership not only requires mutual understanding between the leaders at the top but it also requires changes in the organization structure and work process to achieve desired results. If the organization fails to succeed the shared leadership model with another shared leadership model then it has to have a clear exit strategy to make success of the CEO oriented current leadership model.
The era of single strong leader at the top is coming to an end because of increasing complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty in the business environment. Organization needs to look more and more toward shared leadership approach where co-CEO shares the burden or responsibilities and accountabilities. Installing two decision makers at the top can help the organization to manage complex situations such as industry wide disruption, build an agile organization that can respond to political changes, economic factors, social trends, and legal and environmental regulations.