Portrait 07

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"A tandem only works with good coordination and absolute confidence."
©e veleen007 - stock.adobe.com
© eveleen007 - stock.adobe.com

Die The portrayed female scientist A and the portrayed female scientist B jointly lead a department. Both work part-time. female scientist A has a doctorate. She has been working at her research institute for almost 15 years. She is married and has a daughter and a son in primary school age. Female scientist B started working as a research assistant for the research institute alongside her studies 8 years ago. She has been a research associate for 2 years.

Since when do you share the leadership position?

Female Scientist A: Our department was restructured less than a year ago and new groups were formed within the department.

Female Scientist B: Our former group leader was appointed the head of department, and we took over the group leadership of one of the new groups together.

How did you come to share the leadership position?

Female Scientist B: The idea was that an experienced scientist trains a junior scientist and supports her in her career.

Female Scientist A: The leadership role was new for both of us and there was another challenge: Our new team was a mix of members from several formerly independent groups. In addition to that, we have retained our old responsibilities, scientific activities, and responsibilities.

Female Scientist B: Already before we became group leaders, we both worked part-time – and we are still doing that now. A works 24 hours and I work 31 hours.

For what reasons do you work part-time?

Female Scientist A: I work part-time because of my children. I totally disagree with the sentence “child and career” – either you take care of your children or you pursue a career. The term “reconciliation of family and work” is more suitable for me. I can only reconcile my family and my job because I have the fitting private infrastructure. On my two long working days and when I am on a business trip, my father picks up my children. They have lunch with him, and he takes care of the homework and the afternoon appointments. My husband works full time. If we did not have the grandpa, my work would look very different.

Female Scientist B: I had a long-distance relationship and spent only four days working to spend time together with my partner. Meanwhile, we have moved together and now I daily drive a very long distance to the Institute. It is more convenient to drive four instead of five days.

Who had the idea for the shared leadership?

Female Scientist B: The idea came from our former group leader and current head of department. Looking ahead to the future, the idea of training younger employees to become group leaders came up. Besides us, there is another leadership tandem in our department: it consists of two men.

Female Scientist A: Maybe the idea also came about because it was not really my explicit goal to be a group leader. I have two children and I think it is important that I take care of my children. I was worried that a group leader position and my children would be irreconcilable.

Female Scientist B: It has been under discussion for a while that I should be trained as a leader. Surprising to me was that this was suddenly going so fast.

Female Scientist A: I was convinced that I would like to continue working part-time for a while. And through the shared leadership, I can at the same time pass on the experience that I gained by working there for a long-time.

How do you organize the shared leadership in practice?

Female Scientist A: We share an office and make sure that it is occupied five days a week. I usually work here from Monday to Thursday. My colleague is here from Tuesday to Friday. When appointments are scheduled, she also sometimes comes in on Monday and I sometimes on Friday. We handle this flexible.

Female Scientist B: Through the shared leadership, the question arose how we will conduct the performance review. In order not to sit there two against one, the employees had to be assigned to only one group leader. This assignment is in fact only valid for the performance review. Apart from that, we lead our five group members together.

How do you share your leadership responsibilities content-related?

Female Scientist A: Until now, it was extremely important for us to become acquainted in everything together and constantly coordinate with each other. Meanwhile, it becomes apparent that B is the one that has the connection to the controlling. She juggles with numbers, vacation days, overtime and hour account assignments. She just has a knack for it.

Female Scientist B: In return, A comes up with applications and all kinds of texts just like that.

Female Scientist A: So we complement one another well. In addition, we perform tasks similarly and are both very structured.

How often do you coordinate with each other?

Female Scientist B: We actually do it according to our needs. Basically, that is almost every day. We see each other three days a week. On Tuesday, we will discuss what happened on Monday and Friday. If there was something serious, we will send an email to inform the other directly.

Female Scientist A: When we are at the office at the same time that works quickly – just like that. Lately we have phoned twice a day, and we did a short update via email. B was injured and therefore not allowed to drive. She worked from home and was in constant contact with me.

Female Scientist B: It was ideal that A could just represent me. We also make mutual the vacation replacement, so that there is always a contact person available.

What does the shared leadership mean for your employees as well as for your colleagues?

Female Scientist B: Our group is still quite young and we are still in the establishing phase. Our team members come from three different groups, with different themes and cultures. Now everyone has to find his or her new role and task.

Female Scientist A: In addition, the old groups had completely different leaderships. We come from the same group and wanted to lead – with the best of intentions – the way that we were used to. In the beginning, it was difficult to find an own way for the group. This process is still ongoing.

Female Scientist B: Other executives are interested. They consider our model to be an interesting idea. Especially because you have a reduced burden and there is always a replacement. Nevertheless, it is certain that everyone is curious about how it works. Therefore, we have to prove ourselves as a tandem.

Did you have role models for the shared leadership?

Female Scientist B: At our institute, there have already been leadership-tandems for a long-time – one person is at this location and the other person is at the other location. At the end of last year, we received information about tandems in other companies. There was also an example where two women lead as a double tip. We got inspiration from them. For example, they have a shared email address.

Female Scientist A: For two months now, we have a joint email address, in addition to our personal one. This address does not have a personal name, but a factual one. It’s intended this way.

Are you a role model for others?

Female Scientist B: I don’t know if we are a role model for others. Perhaps this is changing through this portrait.

Female Scientist A: We took part in a seminar “New in the leadership role”. I was very surprised about the different management models that we have in our research organization. I believe that if the manager agrees, then actually everything is possible in our organization. Our head of department is ready to break new ground and try out new models. However, this is also an advance in trust, which must be handled responsibly accordingly.

What is the basic requirement for a well-functioning tandem?

Female Scientist A: A tandem only works with good coordination and absolute confidence. It is important to pursue the same line.

Female Scientist B: I think trust, honesty and similar views are important. It is very helpful if you knew the tandem partner before.

What advantage do you see in the joint leadership?

Female Scientist B: The truth is that we coordinated a lot with each other last year. That took a lot of time. Nevertheless, overall the benefits outweigh that. We optimally use the strengths that each of us has and thus work very efficiently.

Female Scientist A: Another advantage is that you have a contact person on an equal footing. You can talk about things in a very quick and informal way and make decisions together. I think that is very helpful.

What would you do differently retrospectively?

Female Scientist B: The period between the announcement of the restructuring and the actual implementation was quite short. If we had more time for settling in, the transition would have been smoother. We learned many things only when we were already group leaders.

Female Scientist A: The change process could have had a bit more guidance, also from the outside, to cause less inefficiencies. The restructuring unsettled the staff…

Female Scientist B: …and at the same time, they were confronted with two group leaders, who also had to find themselves. That could have been easier.

What could your organization change to facilitate shared leadership?

Female Scientist B: I would endorse a general guideline for the division of employees between two executives – for example, with regard to employee talks. In our case, the works council has insisted on this and our head of department has therefore assigned our employees to one of the two of us. However, through the split our team first felt divided and not as a group.

What do you wish for the future?

Female Scientist A: I hope that we can continue what we have begun and that we manage it good further on. We grow into our roles and we develop ourselves further. Our group is also getting together better every day. We are on a good path.

Female Scientist B: I also wish that this goes on and that we find our way as a group.

Role Models

Individual paths for the reconciliation of private and working life

Pictures © eveleen007 - stock.adobe.com

  • "The both of us didn't want the traditional family model."

    The portrayed female scientist started 10 years ago with a PhD scholarship at her institute.
    Six years ago, she was hired as a research associate. She has been deputy head of department
    for four years. Her husband works in the same department. Together they have a daughter in
    toddler age and a son in infancy. Currently, both work 40 percent to look after their
    son at home.

    Read on.
    Portrait 09
  • "Special is that you have responsibility around the clock.
    At the office, you are responsible for the employees and at home,
    you are responsible for your child."

    The portrayed female scientist has been working at her institute for 10 years.
    After the birth of her daughter, the female scientist went for parental leave
    for one year. Shortly after she returned to her old position, the management of
    a department was offered to her. She has been in charge of the department for
    one and a half years now and her daughter is three years old.

    Read on.

    Portrait 08
  • "A tandem only works with good coordination and absolute confidence."

    The portrayed female scientist A and the portrayed female scientist B jointly
    lead a department. Both work part time. Female Scientist A has a doctorate.
    She has been working at her research institute for almost 15 years. She is
    married and has a daughter and a son in primary school age.
    Female Scientist B started working as a research assistant for the research
    institute alongside her studies 8 years ago. She has been a research
    associate for 2 years.

    Read on.

    Portrait 07
  • "Although we work so much,
    we spend a lot of beautiful time with our children."

    The portrayed female scientist has been working at her Institute for more than
    20 years. She began her career as a research assistant. For the last seven years,
    she has been working as a department manager and recently became a professor at
    university. In favor of this new task, she has given up the management of the
    department, but she continues to work for her research institute. She is married,
    has a daughter with Down syndrome and a son.

    Read on.

    Portrait 06
  • "Role models were very important to me."

    The portrayed female scientist has been working at her research institute for
    10 years. The portrayed scientist has a doctorate and is a group leader at a university.
    Both are married and have a 14 months old son, whom they look after together.

    Read on.

    Portrait 05
  • "There is nothing special about taking on a leadership function
    and working part-time."

    The portrayed female scientist has been working at her institute for almost 20 years.
    Almost a year after she took over the leadership of a group, her son was born.
    Her son is now four years old. The female scientist is still a group leader and works
    part-time to be able to spend time with her son.

    Read on.

    Portrait 04
  • "A Dad home alone with a baby is really recommendable."

    The portrayed scientists both work at the same research institute. They are married
    and have two daughters, which are in kindergarten and elementary school age.
    The scientist has been at the Institute for seven years. When she started working
    for the institute, her first daughter was five months old and because of that,
    her father cared for her until her first birthday. The male scientist has a PhD and
    has been working at the Institute for two years.

    Read on.
    Portrait 03
  • "Instead of two bosses the employees now have two contact persons."

    The portrayed female Scientist and the portrayed male scientist lead a department
    of their research Institute jointly. The Institute has several locations. The two
    portrayed scientists work at a location that is rural without connection to an
    university town. The female scientist has a PhD and has been working for the
    institute for almost 10 years. She is married. The male scientist has a diploma
    and has been at the Institute for almost 20 years. He is married and has two
    children in primary school age. His wife works part-time at the same institute.

    Read on.
    Portrait 02
  • "The most beautiful time is when the five of us are together.
    That beats everything."

    The portrayed scientists have been working in the same department of a research
    institute for 10 years. Both are research associates and deputy group leaders.
    Today married, they first met during their studies. Nineteen months ago, they became
    parents of triplets. They organize the everyday family life on an equal footing and
    split all tasks half-half among themselves.

    Read on.
    Portrait 01