This story comes from Uma Rani, SVP Development, SAP India.
“In 2013, when my organization moved from service and support to development there were several questions about what the new leadership structure would look like. As an interim option it was decided there would be a co-leadership structure between Gert Bizer, a colleague from Germany, and myself. This was only meant to be an interim solution until a final solution was proposed but 3 years later this structure still continues to be a successful model of leadership, resulting in an organization with high leadership trust and employee engagement.
Key Personal Insights and Learnings from being a Co-leadership model:
Communication: Co leadership is like treading a thin line. Communication is key when you are separated by 4500 miles and three and a half hours. There are many things which can go wrong and you need to have the opportunity to candidly discuss differences of opinion. In the beginning, while trust is being built, it is easy to have doubts of the intent on the other leader. One needs to constantly adapt and train to erase this doubt. One cannot find all situations conducive and hence I chose to work on converting the collaboration to a model that was best for the both of us. The key was to openly discuss, on a daily basis, what was happening on both fronts and this continues to this day.
Trust & Collaboration: We come from diverse backgrounds and this also means that we have a different view on most topics. We have used this to our advantage to come to faster and better solutions. For example, when we were looking at how the organization should evolve in the future there were conservative and radical views. Our opinions might have been different but, due to the high level of trust between us, we were always able to find the approach which considered all points of view. Difference of opinion isn’t bad. It is a common side effect of drawing out each person’s unique perspective. This may come across as conceding to a contrasting view or settle for a compromise, but it helped us create a consistent system for reflecting on each other’s opinions and being aware of the same.
Belief in Leadership Purpose: When two leaders share responsibility for the vision, goals and priorities, it becomes easier. For both of us, we agreed that would not compromise the common good for any single individual’s good and this became a guiding principle for all of our decisions. Because we share this driving visions we’ve agreed upon the issues that we’ll tackle and those that do not require alignment.
If I were to summarize our model for success in a single line it would be to maintain high levels of #trust, communication and belief in our leadership purpose. Yes, at times, it can be hard but the boons of the collaborative leadership assuredly make the challenges worth traversing.”
Stay tuned for our next installment of Leaders@SAP!
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