Alternative management models: a question for readers

I'm interested in hearing from people out there who have had been part of a manager model that varies in a way from the traditional single manager, multiple team member team model. (Yes, there must be a better way to say that, but it is so normalized now it seems that it is just synonymous with "manager.")

Perhaps you have had more than one manager at a time. Perhaps you were part of a team that had no manager; everyone just divided up the leadership responsibilities on behalf of the team. I know there are companies that have or had co-CEOs; did you have co-managers who shared the leadership responsibilities?  I also have heard of rotational management, where the management responsibilities change on a periodic basis.

Margaret Heffernan's recent book Uncharted explores alternative leadership models in several chapters. One notable example is CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. CERN has multiple funding countries and sponsors, so no one funding source is in charge. Many of the roles on the organization chart are elected, not appointed, and change on a rotational basis.

In traditional organizations, decision-making is specifically noted as a key management skill. At CERN, it is expertise, not title, which is the basis for most decision-making, and most decision-making is collaborative and consensual.

Since the lab runs 7/24, people are needed around the clock. Everyone, regardless of position or title, takes turns working shifts to support the experiments. Prima donnas don't appear to last long at CERN; this may be in contrast to your own experience in your worklife so far.

I'm baffled why managers in typical organizations are nearly all appointed by more senior managers. We believe in electing our leaders in government; many sports teams at least pick their own team captains. Why don't we do this in our organizations? I'd love to hear of a company that encourages teams to elect their own manager.

If you have been a part of anything like any of these models, drop me a line at and we can share experiences. I'll be sharing more about these alternative models in future editions of this newsletter. Maybe together we can inspire a team to take a chance on a better, more progressive model of organizational leadership.

Dale Rebhorn

Dale Rebhorn

Dale Rebhorn is a teacher and student of leadership.
Madison, Wisconsin, USA