Double-headed management was a popular phrase a few years ago, but it seems to have fallen out of current usage, possibly because people thought it was really just a piece of jargon. This is a pity because it actually encapsulates a lot of the issues and problems that a business can face, mainly internal, and which sound leadership can play a crucial role in resolving.
What does it mean?
The original idea behind this phrase was to highlight situations in management where two people or more were essentially trying to resolve the same issue or cover the same ground as each other. Inevitably, there normally followed a varying degree of chaos, resulting largely from a lack of clarity about responsibility.
What followed from this was a strong sense that a business of any size works best when people are clear about, and understand their roles and responsibilities. If that clarity is not present, then people feel confused, their thinking becomes confused and ultimately their performance will suffer because they are not able to really focus on what they are meant to be doing.
People might ask if this is such a basic concept, why isn’t it always present in a business? This is a good question, the answer to which is down more to human nature than anything else, and the solution to which is clear and effective leadership.
Avoidance and denial
People often tend to avoid issues when they feel uncomfortable with them; not all the time, but to a sufficient degree to compromise a number of real-life work and business situations. This type of compromise is not a healthy one but is a form of denial where it seems easier to avoid a real issue than to face it, or to think of it as another issue altogether.
However one defines leadership, a big part of it is about clarity. Being clear about roles and responsibilities actually frees people to know what is expected of them, and to know that they can be trusted with whatever work is given to them. This trust allows them over time to trust themselves more, trust their managers more and work towards a more outward-looking job performance.
It is important to build into this process a degree of accountability, and employees should know that they will be held to account for what they do, in the sense of someone assessing their performance against what is expected of them.
It is important that this accountability is not punitive. If for any reason people fall short of what is expected of them, then it must be investigated and found out why, and any possible remedial measures put in place. If someone feels threatened in any way, they become more defensive and less open to any measures of improvement that may be available to them.
This dual process of enabling responsibility and accountability is an absolutely key element of any effective leader, and any leadership style, and the clearer they are with the people they have charge over, the more effective they will all be.