Alison Houghton-Corfield, National Relationship Director, Master Private Finance

Alison has been in financial services for almost 25 years, the majority of it spent at BOS, Halifax and Lloyds, where she cut her teeth in mortgages and protection and developed as an individual, gaining the transferable skills and experience to venture out into specialist lending. She now works as national relationship director at Master Private Finance, a master broker and packager in the specialist finance arena, working with businesses and mortgage networks. Alison is passionate about diversity and inclusion within the finance industry and is leading a group within the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries (AMI) Taskforce, working with the newly created AMI Steering Group, supporting, and championing inclusion for all, across the industry.


Any leader will tell you, that leadership is a tough job, especially when starting off.

Leaders are responsible for successfully creating and communicating a vision of what the business looks like, what the culture is, in which direction they want it to go, how they’re going to get there and most importantly, how they are going to get the staff to believe in the vision and follow them. 

I think most leaders are familiar with the phrases, it’s tough at the top and two heads are better than one.

This then poses the question of why do people strive to be the top dog, the top banana, at the top of their game and the dominant leader?

Traditional business models have cultivated and promoted a top-down hierarchy with a dominant leader sitting at the top of an organization. Is this still the right approach for all organizations and are there changes ahead in terms of modern leadership?

Let’s look at co-leadership. What is it and is it viable?

I’m currently in a position of co-leadership. For anyone not familiar with the term it’s when 2 or more leaders share leadership responsibility.

“I’m not too sure about that”, I can here many people saying.

Who makes the decisions?

Is it good for the business?

What happens if there’s a disagreement?

How are staff managed?

How do co-leaders communicate?

Decision making becomes a shared responsibility and it leads back to the vision and strategic direction of the company. I have spoken with many lone leaders who have held executive positions and a large amount would have relished more support in terms of making decisions, having people around them who could have offered a different perspective or direction. Co-leadership works best when all leaders trust each other. Trust is first and foremost when considering this style of leadership, if you don’t trust your co-leaders abilities, knowledge, and skills then it will likely fail.

Is a one-dimensional linear thought process good for business? Yes, it is in some businesses but just imagine the opportunities co-leaders can create. They can bring different skills sets, thought processes and experiences, which complement each other which allow for greater collaboration and often quicker decision making.

Co-leaders are not going to agree 100% of the time and this is when any ego’s have to be firmly and quickly put aside and the focus is directed unequivocally on the vision and strategy whilst never losing sight of what’s best for the business.

Managing staff can be onerous and difficult at times and when you have co-leadership it’s imperative that staff clearly understand which leader is responsible for which part of the business and any requests, process changes, updates etc. they receive, have been agreed by all leaders.

Our experience of co-leadership.

Master Private Finance is led by Aaron Noone Sales and Operations Director and myself Alison Houghton-Corfield, National Relationship Director.

The foundations of the leadership are trust, aligned values, unwavering solid morals and a clear agreed vision for the business

No one individual is right 100% of the time, yet when leading a business alone, you are 100% responsible for everything. The vision, the direction, the decisions, the communications, the people who rely on you and it can weigh very heavily on an individual’s shoulders.

Leadership to many is often aligned with power and someone having that ultimate power within that organisation. In this scenario the power is shared so it’s imperative that co-leaders are able to leave their ego’s at the door, fully embed themselves in the business vision and adopt a balanced approach with open mindedness.

This allows you to develop an authentic brand as you don’t need to be the boss of everything. It also promotes self-development along with self-awareness, as despite what people think, nobody is the finished article, nobody is fully developed, everyone can get better.

When you can focus on playing to your strengths, you are more confident, have better clarity of thought, performance improves, which creates positivity and drive. It also allows other leaders to play to their strengths too which cultivates a stronger leadership team as other leaders, can pick up areas you aren’t as strong in, as an individual can play to your strengths within your business get support in the areas of your business that are weaker, it will have a whole host of benefits. You will: Feel good about your role within the business.

Harvard Business Review published an article which discussed the impact of positivity on an organisation:

During the past few years, we have developed a powerful tool to help people understand and leverage their individual talents. Called the Reflected Best Self (RBS) exercise, our method allows managers to develop a sense of their “personal best” in order to increase their future potential. The RBS exercise is but one example of new approaches springing from an area of research called positive organizational scholarship (POS). Just as psychologists know that people respond better to praise than to criticism, organisational behaviour scholars are finding that when companies focus on positive attributes such as resilience and trust, they can reap impressive bottom-line returns. 

Co-leadership is also a good process to help you talk out loud with other leaders. It’s like a spell check for your organisation and it allows different leadership styles to work with different personalities when required.

It can also be an anti-dote to leadership loneliness which isn’t addressed often enough when leaders are in the thick of things.

Think about it, could it work for you?

Nurture future possibilities

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