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Co-Leadership is more than sharing the workload

Reflections from Rebecca Tye and Camaro West

January 30th, 2023 marked the end of our first year as Executive Co-Directors for Peace is Loud. When we stepped into this shared role, it seemed like such a practical solution to the problem of the overworked and under-resourced Executive Director.

We could each focus on the parts of the work that excited us most and best matched each of our skills, and simultaneously bounce ideas off of one another and talk through problems. Ultimately, we would divide and conquer.

As it turns out, our co-leadership is less “Divide and Conquer” and more “Collaborate and Achieve.”

Plans to separate the work by who is “better” at different skills were quickly replaced with planning sessions where we took it all on together. There is no dividing the work because it’s all interconnected. That doesn’t mean that we are both actively involved in the day to day of it all, but in order to be successful we need to model the type of teamwork, communication and seamless collaboration that we want the whole team to embody.

At the end of year one, our list of lessons and personal reflections is long enough to fill a book (which we hope to write one day!), but today we leave you with these:

  1. Burnout does not have to be a foregone conclusion of nonprofit leadership. It comes from expecting too much from any one individual. Having a partner does not automatically prevent burnout, but it allows us to share the emotional load of leading a team and gives us the much needed space to take time off.
  2. Sharing leadership makes your partner more like a spouse than a co-worker. Tending to our relationship as co-leaders has been its own distinct piece of work, and while it’s tempting to skip check-ins when things get busy, we always feel the effects of missed opportunities to connect. Staying in constant communication and making time to strategize is crucial.
  3. Shared power is not only possible, it’s liberating. Competition is exhausting, as is trying to be the expert in every area of work. Co-leadership allows each of us to focus most on the areas of work that we excel in, while trusting and learning from our partner’s expertise.

At the core of our co-leadership journey is the knowledge that all organizational successes and failures alike belong to both of us equally.

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