Game of Thrones: Co-CEOs may prove no match for ice zombies
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Game of Thrones: Co-CEOs may prove no match for ice zombies

This image released by HBO shows from left, Sophie Turner, Kit Harington, Isaac Hempstead Wright, and Maisie Williams in a scene from "Game of Thrones," that aired Sunday, April 21, 2019. With the Game of Thrones' Jon Snow revealing his royal lineage to his potential rival Daenerys Targaryen, the beleaguered army at Winterfell is about to find out if two chief executives better than one. (Helen Sloan/HBO via AP)

WASHINGTON — Are two chief executives better than one? With Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow revealing his royal lineage to his lover — and aunt — and potential rival Daenerys Targaryen during Sunday’s episode, their beleaguered army at Winterfell is about to find out.

Daenerys is a Queen, among her many titles, and currently the only formal leader of the motley army preparing to face down the fearsome White Walkers. But Jon, who spent most of the show’s seven seasons as the brooding illegitimate son of Ned Stark, reveals that his actual father was her older brother, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. That gives Jon an arguably stronger claim to the Iron Throne than Daenerys.

His timing wasn’t great: Their army will now enter an apocalyptic battle with two potential leaders. And Jon’s sister Sansa Stark has exerted her own authority, making the leadership structure even more complicated.

In the Associated Press’ weekly “Wealth of Westeros” series , we’re following the HBO fantasy show’s latest plot twists and analyzing the economic and business forces driving the story. This week, the conflicts over leadership at the top inspired us to ask: How have two (or more) leaders worked out in the business world?

The short answer: It’s complicated.

To begin with, it hasn’t been a very common arrangement. Barely 5% of the Fortune 500 have tried it over the past 30 years, including Oracle, Salesforce, Chipotle and Whole Foods.

There have been spectacular flame-outs, such as at Deutsche Bank, where both co-CEOs resigned at the same time in 2015. John Reed, the CEO of Citicorp in the late 1990s, was outmanoeuvred and pushed aside by his co-chairman, Sanford Weill, after Citicorp merged with Travelers Group in 1998 to form Citigroup. Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb eventually stepped aside in 2016, to make room for co-founder John Mackey to take over as the sole CEO.

All those examples are considered failures, which may not be surprising, considering that most leadership roles are typically filled by one person, to avoid confusion and in-fighting. And the outsize ambition that is usually required to become a leader in the first place doesn’t leave much room for humility and co-operation.

“My experience is that co-leadership doesn’t work,” Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a management expert at Yale University, wrote earlier this month. “As a general rule, doling out chieftainships across an organization’s upper echelons only serves to undermine and dilute the leadership role.”

Still, co-CEOs have prospered in some cases. Mark Hurd and Safra Katz have been co-CEOs of software giant Oracle since 2014, a partnership that has benefited the company. Still, Oracle’s founder, Larry Ellison, remains at the firm as executive chairman, an arrangement that suggests he may still be the ultimate authority.

And some research has sought to figure out when sharing power can work. A %href_on(file:

Christopher Rugaber And Paul Wiseman, The Associated Press

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