How a co-CEO model can benefit nonprofits


Although shared leadership models may seem daunting to some, the implementation of co-CEOs or co-executive directors is not a new concept for many organizational structures.

The co-CEO model presents multiple benefits when implemented within a collaborative environment, built on a solid foundation of humility, integrity, mutual submission and respect. Because of this, a co-CEO model can be the perfect choice for some nonprofit organizations, especially those whose values include these elements with teamwork as the leading driver.

With these factors in mind, let’s explore a few of the benefits of the co-CEO model.


When two leaders unite their knowledge and experience, the company benefits from their joint skillset and often greater innovation. Shared expertise diversifies an organization’s core abilities, and in the case of nonprofits, can even expand service capabilities.

Shared accountability and collaboration

When co-CEOs work successfully together, it can help set a standard of collaboration. Their effective compromise and demonstrated communication can establish a strong culture of respect throughout the entire organization. An added benefit that comes from such a strong environment of collaboration is a sense of inclusion.

The co-CEO model allows tasks, or even the management of entire programs, to be shared between two individuals instead of one. This method leans into the unique strengths each individual brings to the table and maximizes the outcomes.

An organization considering a co-CEO model should be prepared for potential challenges. However, many of these challenges can be mitigated through the selection of properly paired leaders. Some of the required disciplines required to be successful really require a willingness to engage in humility. Mutual submission is another key component. The term submission can have a negative connotation, especially amongst women; however, when used in the proper context, the mutuality component makes it a beautiful working mechanism for oversight and decision-making. These elements set the foundation for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Reinforced retention and succession

Many nonprofit leaders are overworked, underpaid and can carry a sense of burnout. The co-CEO model ensures leadership is equipped to have the support that is often missing. The sharing of work lessens burnout and provides an environment that decreases the sense of being alone. Additionally, transitions can be staggered, ensuring continuity of leadership.

At its core, this model still is a work in progress, and what works will look a little different for every organization. Utilizing innovation to find what works, as well as a hefty share of foresight and transparency, can help with the implementation of this model.

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