What Neurological Research Reveals About Leadership Development and Training for the Next Generation

Sooner or later, any 21st century organization has to face the succession challenge; that is, making sure the appropriate candidates can take over key roles within the enterprise. To facilitate the change, management teams often establish different strategies to ensure that potential successors have access to the required tools and information to take over.


Some of the most common development strategies include: participating to internal or external training programs, appointing candidates to positions that are gradually more and more challenging, and meeting regularly with coaches, mentors or more experienced workers within the enterprise.


These strategies are far from new; they have been used for centuries. An apprentice would accompany his master in order to learn the rudiments of his profession by observing, listening, experimenting and discussing. Even then, our ancestors knew that these fundamental pillars of learning were the most efficient ways to transfer knowledge.


Today, ongoing research in the field of neurology provide us with new findings on the development of human potential also known as leadership. Can we benefit from the results of these studies?


Numerous teams and researchers have come up with the following findings on how the brain functions:


1.The brain is malleable.

développer les compétences propices au leadershipTwenty years ago, it was believed that brain cells started deteriorating at the age of 25. However, recent research findings demonstrate that it depends on how and how much the brain is being used. The brain works like a machine, constantly making connections with the external environment. It can go on developing itself as long as new connections are made.


  • Approaches: In the case of leadership development, the amount of experiences lived is more important than a person’s age. That is, anyone wishing to develop their leadership skills should experience different leadership situations (i.e. leading a committee or managing a project) while improving their abilities in their own field of expertise.


    In other words, any knowledge worker can develop their leadership as long as they are ready to live new experiences and that they take pleasure in doing it.


2. The brain wants to remember as many things as possible.

As was mentioned above, the brain is like a computer. By living different experiences, it permits us to anticipate similar situations and automate our perceptions and emotions in turn requiring less energy to achieve everyday tasks and actions. Changing our habits is consequently a difficult task because the more we focus on a given circuit within the brain, the more it becomes connected to this habit.


  • Approaches: Assigning leadership tasks to an individual within their range of expertise (i.e.: assigning an accountant to different positions related to financing) might develop their confidence in executing different tasks but it would also create a mechanical way of perceiving situations and reacting to them. Without wanting to, our brain applies the same reasoning to similar situations.


    In order counter this automatism, organizations could appoint their workers to tasks that are unrelated to their domain of expertise (even if temporary as long as they last a minimum of 6 weeks) so that they learn to look at problems from different angles. Workers can thus increase their ability to influence, understand different issues and better communicate with others.


3. Establishing new neuronal connections is much easier than modifying old ones.

The brain can learn new ideas and establish connections at an exponential rate. This learning process is facilitated by positive and constructive social interactions in an environment of trust.


On another side, stress is caused by different factors such as threat, fear, uncertainty or a lack of autonomy. This in turn, limits the attention dedicated to establishing new connections because the brain’s automatic reaction to negative stress is to withdraw into an “fight” or ” flee” mode.


  • Approaches: Situations of negative stress are not propitious times to attempt any type of personal development. Ideally, leadership skills should be developed by experiencing new and diverse situations while at the same time receiving the necessary support and being able to look back on the connections established through insights and feedbacks.


4. The brain detects non-verbal signals before other types of messages.

A study conducted by Alexander Pentland reveals that we are much more influenced by non-verbal signals than we think.


  • Approaches: Leadership development programs should not omit the candidate’s non-verbal behaviors such as: openness to ideas, adaptability, control/autonomy, confidence/distrust, fear/hope, etc. Furthermore, candidates should learn to read non-verbal behaviors in others. They should also know and understand their own emotions; emotions come out sooner or later, no matter how hard one tries to repress them.


5. Social relations stimulate new connections.

renforcer le leadership social, communicationThe more positive and pleasant the relationship, the more the individual can gain from it. Neuroleadership expert David Rock adds that prior to the advances in the field of neuroscience, psychological or social pain (the feeling of being publicly rejected or humiliated) was an unsolvable problem. Today, studies reveal that the brain deals with psychological pain the same way as it does with physical pain. The same goes for social and physical rewards. In both cases, the same areas of the brain are activated in the process.


  • Approaches: The task of developing an individual, a team or an organization’s leadership or mobilizing the greatest number of people to occupy leadership positions is a process of social reinforcement which includes: giving positive feedback, treating a person fairly, trusting them and openly recognizing their abilities and contributions, etc.



Recent brain research reveals that human beings have an almost infinite potential to develop their leadership as long as they live diverse, stimulating, positive and socially recognized experiences. In other words, as long as one dares to experiment and venture outside of their comfort zone.


What is more, those in charge of assisting potential leaders or teams in the development of their leadership should make sure to establish a mature dialogue and a bond of trust, two necessary conditions for learning, making new connections and opening oneself to others and to the world.


Edith Luc, Ph.D.


©2012 Edith Luc. All Rights Reserved.

The Hidden Face of Top Performing Teams: What MIT Studies Reveal.

MIT researcher Alex “Sandy” Pentland devoted the past few years to researching the communication habits of over 2500 members of various teams within 21 different organizations (See Harvard Business Review, April 2012).


Using electronic sensors, she began by recording, measuring and analyzing different aspects of team communications including: who was speaking and to whom, the length of discussions, non-verbal behaviors such as postures, facial expressions, tones of voice and arm and hand gestures. These results were then compared to each team’s performance.


At first glance, some results were relatively obvious, including the one which states that communication plays an important part in a team’s performance.


What was particularly revealing however, was that a group’s communication style has a greater impact on performance than all other factors combined together such as: individual talents, personalities, combined abilities and even the content being discussed!


Travail ensembleIn other words, the effectiveness of team communication has a greater impact on performance than all other factors put together. Instead of measuring the personalities of each member by using different psychometric tools, a more efficient way of improving performance would be to understand and act on the types of communication that prevail within the team.


Another interesting point is the researcher’s description of the three dimensions at work within any team and their impact on performance. These are:

  • the team’s energy level, which can be measured by the amount and type of exchanges;
  • the level of engagement, defined by the energy distribution amongst members;
  • the willingness to explore new possibilities, solutions and ideas. This is measured by the communications and connections established between members and with other individuals, within and outside the organization.


High-performing teams have a high energy level where all members equally partake and in discussions; communications are brief and energetic; members interact and collaborate, not only with the team leader, but with one another; and communications are mainly face-to-face. The most high performing teams are also constantly looking to establish connections outside of their group.


Another important point is the way a team is structured. An example of a low energy team is when the power and influence come only from the formal leader. In such cases, the team’s energy depends on the formal leader and one or two other individuals associated to him/her.


Informative meetings and briefings may be efficient, however members of hierarchical teams are much less efficient when it comes to discussing challenges, innovating, solving problems or making decisions. Hierarchical teams are also less engaged and mobilized because the knowledge, expertise and ideas of many of its members are not included in the decisions made.


Mission commune


In my opinion, these results are supportive of the shared leadership model, defined as a dynamic and reciprocal influence between individuals mobilized by a common goal. At the heart of this model, the goal, not the formal leader, motivates and engages members of the group.


Do you agree? Is there another, or many other factors that have a greater impact on a team’s performance?


Edith Luc, Ph.D,


©2012, Edith Luc. All Rights Reserved.

5 Ways to Disengage your Workforce

Can certain work environments lead to disengagement amongst your workforce? What can be done to re-engage members of a group towards achieving a common mission?


travail d'équipeAs stated by John W. Gardner, the practice of leadership is a two-faceted process involving influence and accountability. Gardner, John F. Kennedy’s consultant, also believed that within any group, organization, or society, leadership roles and responsibilities are unofficially shared by many individuals. Furthermore, the sense of responsibility created by sharing leadership roles leads to a strong collective engagement within the organization. This collective mobilization is sometimes more efficient than the leadership at the top of the organization.


In the case of shared leadership, the real objective is to elevate the feeling of engagement and accountability to include every member of the team or organization in the achievement of the common mission. In other words, shared leadership calls for the mobilization of the greatest number of individuals so that the responsibility towards achieving the common goal is shared by everyone within the organization.


Let us reflect differently about the subject by looking at 5 attitudes that lead to disengagement in the workplace, these are:


  • Distrust
  • Disregard
  • Derision
  • Manipulation
  • Self-contempt





Disengagement often originates from an environment where workers do not trust their peers. Distrust can be manifested in different ways: a lack of trust in the ability of workers to perform, in their motivation or their expertise might lead to disengagement.


Distrust can also manifest itself when responsibilities are divided amongst workers instead of being shared by the entire group. Limiting discussions about challenges, issues or results; ignoring or not including the suggestions, ideas, feedback and initiatives of others and increasing control mechanisms or bureaucratic formalities are other ways to create distrust amongst individuals of an entity. The following suggestions can serve as ways to increase the level of trust within a group and reinforce employee engagement:


  • encouraging autonomy, initiatives and the expression of ideas; implementing them whenever it is possible;
  • during formal and informal meetings, communicating information about common problems and challenges;
  • acknowledging the interests and motivations of others rather than taking them for granted;
  • allowing workers to make a few mistakes so that they learn to trust others and feel more confident to take initiatives.



This attitude tends to manifest itself when hierarchies of preferences are established to distinguish between individuals, professions (i.e. doctors, nurses, janitors) or departments (i.e. engineering department vs. sales department, human resources department). The individuals, or groups disadvantaged by these preferences tend to dissociate themselves from the common goal.


Discussions concerning these hierarchies do not have to be derogative or negative. Highlighting the accomplishments of a certain group or person while constantly omitting others can have a harmful effect on the organization and subsequently lead to disengagement. This problem can be solved by:


  • establishing values of mutual respect between all members of the organization; explaining expectations to everyone;
  • equally acknowledging the accomplishments of all groups and individuals;
  • creating training and development incentives open to the greatest number of people (instead of restricting them to a few individuals or groups). By taking such an initiative, Danone developed a leadership training program available to its 15,000 employees and its suppliers.



can affect one individual or an entire group. It creates the perfect environment for rumor mongering and the defamation of others. propager des rumeurs, rumor mongering The worker who hears about these harmful confessions might be initially flattered of being chosen as a confident and not as the “butt of the joke”. However, this person will slowly become distrustful of those creating and spreading these rumors.


Gradually, all members of the group might end up scared that the same thing could happen to them. This fear might even bring some workers to not take any initiatives by fear of being judged if they made a mistake. Some solutions to eliminate rumor mongering and distrust amongst workers include:


  • not partaking in such social practices and especially, making sure to quickly change the subject when discussions revolve around this;
  • quickly and openly valuing the individual or group harmed by these comments.



reality involves misleading others, telling white lies or inventing situations to benefit one’s individual interests. The manipulator’s dishonest strategies will sooner or later be revealed. Although most individuals tend to trust before doubting, the manipulator’s credibility will slowly be lost at the expense of the entire group.


You might be able to deceive some people sometimes, but deceiving everybody all the time is impossible. This also explains why political and business leaders greatly benefit from speaking frankly and honestly to their audiences. Jack Layton (Canadian political leader, passed away in 2011) was praised for his honest and authentic dialogs throughout his career. Some ways to avoid manipulations within a group include:


  • speaking in the most authentic and honest way possible;
  • if the entire truth cannot be communicated, it might be better to not say anything or explain that, due to a lack of important facts, the truth cannot yet be communicated openly.



manifested towards one’s own interests or one’s role within the organization can lead to disengagement Manque de confiance en soi, self-contemptbecause the individual’s lack of self-mobilization influences their contribution to the common mission. The solution in this case is to link one’s actions with what they wish they were doing. As stated by Jerchagnon: “Know yourself and do what you love”. I would add : love what you do. Some ways to avoid being self-contemptuous and learn to know and love yourself include:


  • getting to know yourself better, your strengths, interests and abilities;
  • understanding exactly what the mission is and what you could do to contribute to its achievement.





Accountability is a collective resource that should be shared equally amongst every collaborator. By sharing the responsibility of results, challenges, solutions and decisions, the goal becomes truly shared.


To achieve this level of collective engagement, the group (or organization) should try to avoid situations leading to disengagement such as : not trusting one another, distinguishing between workers or groups according to hierarchies of preferences, rumor mongering, manipulating the truth or lacking of confidence in one’s own abilities and contributions.


These environments gradually create disengagement amongst workers, subsequently limiting the group’s leadership to the few individuals in formal positions of power.


Edith Luc, Ph.D.


© 2012, Edith Luc. All Rights Reserved.

Get Inspired by These 3 Revolutionary Groups of 2011

Last week, I presented 8 remarkable leaders of 2011 that inspired us with their courage, authenticity and their actions motivated by the collective interest.


With the New Year approaching, here are the groups that united their efforts and managed to inspire, mobilize, and have an impact on people worldwide in the past year. TIME magazine highlighted this by choosing as person of the year the figure of the protester.


These various groups of people guided by a common objective and responsible for engaging in revolutionary actions, managed to save lives and protest despite the numerous dangers and constant threats along the way. They fought to improve their situation and question the status quo. Here are the groups that marked the year 2011 :




1. The 2000 (and more) volunteer workers
    that lent a helping hand to the victims of the floods that destroyed many houses in Montérégie, Quebec’s southwest region in the Spring of 2011.
  • For their mobilization and their collective efforts in helping and supporting the victims.
  • 2. The Arab Spring (aka The Arab Awakening):
      The wave of protests that began in Tunisia and led to manifestations in other Arab countries with the goals of increasing democracy, dignity and justice.
  • For their collective courage, their mobilization, their solidarity and their resiliency despite constant threats and repression.
  • 3. Occupy Wall Street
  • For having inspired people worldwide by demonstrating that with the help of social media, it is possible to leave behind individualistic needs in order to dedicate oneself to a common mission.

  • I also recommend reading Stéphane Hessel’s book: Time for Outrage: Indignez-Vous! (it inspired the Occupy Movement).

    Don’t hesitate to contribute to the list by adding other reasons why you think the preceding groups should be recognized or by presenting other revolutionary groups that marked the year 2011. On this note, my dear readers:


    May the Holiday season bring you friendship and shared encounters marked by joy and happiness with those who are dear to you.


    My best wishes of health, happiness and prosperity for the New Year!


    Edith Luc, Ph.D.


    © 2011. Edith Luc. All Rights Reserved.

    10 Must-Read Books For Anyone Interested in Leadership (and Good Gift Ideas!)

    There are two fundamental pillars of leadership that should be considered by any individual wishing to become a better leader. The first one, self-knowledge, leads us to determine what we want to accomplish: the goal, its meaning and its specific objectives, and how to accomplish it (values, actions and efforts). The second pillar is experience, which leads us to develop resilience, to discover new leadership skills and to determine the way we choose our collaborators.


    Some books can serve as guides in shaping the way we understand ourselves and in understanding how to have more influence on others. Furthermore, giving a book to a relative, a colleague or a close friend is a simple way to thank them for their support during the year.


    Here are 10 books from my personal selection that I recommend to any individual interested in leadership.




    1. On Leadership, by John W. Gardner. I really like this book because it explains the essence of leadership. The author develops themes that are still valid today such as the nature of leadership, its roles, its challenges, its obligations and how to develop it from one’s childhood and continuously throughout one’s lifetime. In my opinion, if there was only one book to read and reread on the subject, it would be this one.


    2. On Becoming a Leader, by Warren Bennis. This book is a tool for self-discovery. Readers are guided through the description of 10 leadership challenges to determine what abilities will permit them to become better leaders. Some challenges include: mastering the context, self-knowledge, operating during a crisis and visualizing a situation in the future.


    3. The Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. This book is less about leadership than it is about an individual’s personal and collective meaning. It is useful for any leader whose duties comprise of creating and giving meaning to his workers.

    The author-psychiatrist is a Holocaust survivor. His observations in this context led him to conclude that, for an individual to be mobilized and resilient, his life needs to have meaning. Reading Frankl’s work permits reader’s to see the challenges, difficulties and complexities that mark the 21st century in a different light.


    4. Head, Heart and Guts, by Dotlich, Cairo et Rhinesmith. An accomplished leader is someone who knows how to mobilize by making use of an individual’s three fundamental constituents : his head, heart and guts. This book guides readers not only to develop their own leadership potential, but also to develop the leadership of others by appealing to the three dimensions mentioned above.


    5. The Leadership Challenge, by Kouzes & Posner. The authors of this book act as personal coaches for the reader by putting forward 5 practices of exemplary leadership. These are : model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act and encourage the heart.


    6. Drive : The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink. Although this book isn’t directly related to leadership, it deals with one of its main functions: mobilization. The author looks at the things that motivates individuals, both professionally and personally.

    According to Pink, the possibility of managing ourselves (autonomy), of learning, of creating new things (self-development and creativity), and of having an impact drive us more than the possibility of being rewarded with money or gifts.


    7. Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman, by Gail Evans. This book is straightforward and is not always politically correct (which is a good thing!). I recommend it because it’s filled with honest and blunt opinions on what a businesswoman should and shouldn’t do if she wants to succeed. The author compares male and female reactions to different situations. This book teaches readers about human nature and the behavior of women in business.


    8. Getting to Yes: Negotiating an Agreement Without Giving In et Getting Past No: Negotiating With Difficult People, by William Ury and others.
    These are two classic books on the art of negotiation. Having influence requires negotiating, presenting your point of view, arguing, and especially creating a collaborative environment.

    Ever manager and entrepreneur will benefit from reading these books, which can also help to improve partnerships within and outside the organisation, with colleagues as well as suppliers.


    9. Senior Leadership Teams : What it Takes to Make Them Great, by Wageman, Nunes, Burruss et Hackman. This book is based on studies of different management teams. I recommend it to anybody wishing to develop their team’s leadership potential. The reader is shown what elements he/she should consider in the creation of his team (such as how to determine a common goal and how to structure it). Coaching instructions are also provided for those wishing to develop the leadership potential of their team.


    10. Managing, by Mintzberg. In this work, Mintzberg deals more with management than leadership (I’ll develop the subject in more detail in a following post). Based on observations he made of a typical work day of 29 managers, the author brings up the current challenges faced by managers from different organizations and at any hierarchical level.




    There are many other books I would recommend if it wasn’t for keeping a short blog post. There are also interesting biographies of leaders which I plan on putting forward soon.


    To end, I wish you all happy holidays!


    Edith Luc, Ph.D.


    © 2011. Edith Luc. All Rights Reserved.

    8 Remarkable Leaders of 2011

    Here are 8 leaders who have gotten themselves noticed during the past year either by inspiring others or by having a significant impact in their community.


    For each of these leaders, I will describe the actions they took and their qualities that show their leadership skills.


    I’ll get back to you in a few days to discuss some key events of 2011 that deeply influenced us as communities.




    1. Lise Thériault:
      Minister of Labor and Social Services.
  • For her courage, her outspokenness, her introduction of Bill 33 in December to eliminate union placement and improve the operation of the construction industry ;

  • For her ability to stand up to some notorious figures of Quebec’s construction industry.
  • 2. Dr. Martin Juneau:
      Cardiologist ; Researcher and Prevention Service Chief at the Montreal Heart Institute ; Director of the MHI’s Center for Preventive Medicine and Physical Activity (Centre ÉPIC).
  • For his hard work and relentless research in the prevention of cardiovascular disease for over 30 years;

  • For setting himself the goal of exercising more than 15 minutes every day.
  • 3. Pauline Ladouceur:
      Teacher; member of the Fédération des Syndicats de l’Enseignement ; received the Albert Shanker Education Award; was named Quebec Volunteer Worker of the year.
  • For her positive impact on students with learning difficulties in disadvantaged communities ;

  • For openly expressing that:


    “Teaching is the most beautiful profession in the world even if seeing immediate results on students is rarely possible. One day, you start to understand that your actions have made a big difference for many children.” (translated from French)
  • 4. Jack Layton:
      Political Leader of the NDP of Canada, died on August 22nd 2011.
  • For manifesting a strong respect of his opponents despite differences of opinion during the 2011 election campaign ;

  • For his posthumous letter that reached and touched millions of Canadians:


    “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world”.
  • 5. Isabelle Marcoux:
      Vice Chair of the Board of Transcontinental Inc. ; future President of the company.
  • For her mentoring of young entrepreneurs ;

  • For being named one of Top 100 of Canada’s Most Powerful Women for 2010.
  • 6. Jacques Duchesneau (to dare, to risk, to act):
      former Chief of Police ; international expert in the field of law and order ; author of a report on the illegal practices of Quebec’s road work industry.
  • For his outspokeness, his search for truth, his fearlessness ;

  • For the recommendations he made in his report ;

  • I suggest reading a biography on:
    Jacques Duchesneau sur le qui-vive: L’audace dans l’action (in French only).
  • 7. Angela Merkel:
      Doctorate in quantum chemistry ; current Chancellor of Germany (the first woman and first East German to fill the position).
  • For her joint efforts with other European leaders to save the European economy ;

  • For her determination and fortitude.
  • 8. Franck Riboud:
      President at Danone since 1995.
  • For offering the “All Leaders” training program to all his management staff (15,000) and suppliers with the goal of developing the leadership of both participants and their colleagues.

    These leaders remind us that leadership requires having courage and taking action, both which are guided by authenticity, outspokenness, the desire for self-improvement and the collective interest.


    To find out more about yourself, why not get inspired by these leaders and write down the leadership skills you acquired and the actions you took during the past year?


    Edith Luc, Ph. D.


    © 2011. Edith Luc. All Rights Reserved.

    The 8 Leadership Principles of Orpheus, the Conductor-less Chamber Orchestra

    Last November, I interviewed Ayden Adler, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s Executive Director to find out more about the successes, the advantages and the challenges of the organization’s exceptional case of shared leadership.


    The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is an award-winning orchestra that holds over 70 concerts every year in venues in Asia, Europe and North America. Founded in 1972 by Julian Fifer and fellow musicians including Ronald Bauch and Joanna Jenner, Orpheus is a self-regulating orchestra where musicians function in a collaborative leadership style to conduct rehearsals and give concerts. Because of this self-governing approach, musicians are not limited to the conductor’s viewpoints and perspectives on how to interpret musical compositions.


    Not only within the orchestra itself but throughout the entire organization is a shared leadership approach reinforced in order to incorporate every member’s perspectives and values in the results produced and the decisions made. This is done in part by the election of three musicians to sit on the Board of Trustees. In addition, musicians are included in the administration and play an important role in the selection of every member of the organization.


    Some advantages of this shared leadership approach include: an increase in innovation and performance, the ability to reach a wider audience and a more enjoyable work environment.


    Here are the 8 leadership principles reinforced by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and defined by the organization’s past Executive Director, Harvey Seifter. These guidelines should not be limited to the music industry; in fact every type of organization can get inspired by Orpheus’ collective leadership style to benefit from an increase in performance and innovation due to a more enjoyable and collective work environment.


    For those wishing to find out more, please note that this case will be analyzed and elaborated in my book on profiles of shared leadership scheduled to come out at the end of 2012.


    The 8 Leadership principles of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra according to Harvey Seifter:


    1. Placing the power in the hands of workers. The musicians playing in the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra make their own decisions on their musical program. That is, they decide who leads the group, how the piece will be played and who will be invited to join them (i.e. substitute musicians). They also elect the musicians that will sit on the Board of Trustees and within the management staff.


    2. Encouraging individual responsibility for a better product quality . There is a shared responsibility by every musician regarding individual and collective performances. Each musician is welcome to give feedback to a colleague regardless of the instrument they play. In this way, a collective listening approach is encouraged by the common desire to achieve the mission.


    3. Creating clearly defined roles. Every musician has a clear understanding of his/her role within the orchestra. Potential roles include:


    • The Concertmaster, the first violin (among equals) who is in charge of assisting the group during rehearsals and performances.
    • The trustees on the Board: three musicians are elected to sit on the Board for the length of three years.
    • Three other musicians are elected to represent the orchestra within the administration staff.


    4. Fostering teamwork.


    5. Working in shared leadership. Every musician has the opportunity to play leadership roles such as leading rehearsals or directing the performance of a new musical composition. The decision rests on the group; the leader is chosen according to expertise, strengths and interests.


    6. Learning to listen and listening to learn. One of the key principles of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra can be understood in Dr. Adler’s words: “learn when and how to talk”. In contrast to other orchestras, Orpheus continuously reinforces a two-way communication system.


    7. Seeking consensus: Every time a strategy is proposed during a rehearsal, the entire orchestra has to reach a consensus before implementing it. Every musician’s perspectives, ideas and vision is taken into consideration and incorporated into the strategy.


    8. Passion-driven dedication. Emotions are freely expressed within the organization, leaving no room for resentment. If a member of the orchestra is frustrated about a subject, another musician takes care of calming them down.


    (These principles were derived from Harvey Seifter’s article “The Conductor-less Orchestra” in the journal Leader to Leader, No. 21 Summer 2001)


    Edith Luc, Ph.D.


    © 2011. Edith Luc. All Rights Reserved.

    What is Shared Leadership?

    Shared leadership is an approach and a process that helps each member of a team, an organization or a society bring its unique perspectives, knowledge and knowhow to resolve common issues and attain a common goal. Shared leadership allows everyone to fully participate and contribute.


    With more than 25 years of consulting experience in various organizations, I have witnessed the immense reservoir of motivation, innovation and dynamism that could be better capitalized if only collective leadership, mutual trust and better dialogue were nurtured.


    Le leadership partagé




    • The collective exercise of influence where each member contributes to the common goal through the expression of his or her unique leadership.
    • A co-accountability towards achieving the targeted results and the efforts needed.
    • A collective strength, an extended partnership, clear accountabilities.
    • A decisional process based on a shared goal, taking into consideration stakeholders’ perspectives.




    • The influence done only by a formally appointed leader.
    • A disengagement of accountability by the formal authority.
    • A diluted power, confused accountabilities.
    • A decisional process based on absolute consensus or the obligation to accept everyone’s views.


    The conditions for shared leadership

    As a team approach to leadership, shared leadership requires that certain conditions exist between members. These conditions need to be developed and improved continuously:


      1. Common, clear and shared understandings regarding issues, challenges, needs and resources
      2. A shared goal that engages members’ heart, spirit and aspirations
      3. Collective confidence or more specifically, a collective sense of satisfaction built with cooperation, a sense of progress towards the goal, task competence and mutual trust
      4. Clear roles, responsibilities and accountabilities
      5. Superior levels of dialog between members and key stakeholders
      6. The actualization of one’s unique leadership.
      7. A T approach to learning. The T approach is a learning attitude, an effort to develop the depth (vertical axis of the T) and the breath (horizontal axis of the T) when undertaking a task, a job or a project, even a career.


    Each of these conditions can be developed and improved continuously for any group who wants to achieve its goal through shared leadership and a cooperative working environment.


    The benefits of shared leadership

    Previously, leadership perspectives within organizations were generally focused on a few individuals having certain attributes, behaviors, traits and styles. This vertical paradigm doesn’t take into consideration the prevalence of teamwork within organization in an era of knowledge workers.


    We cannot afford to waste an untapped reservoir of intellectual capital, so much needed to address our complex challenges. The more we develop the collective leadership capital, the more everyone, individuals and teams, organizations and societies, will benefit from it.


    This shared approach to leadership is exercised through interdependent roles and responsibilities set around the overall common aim to achieve. The expected benefits are larger then when leadership rests on only a few shoulders:


    • Collective understanding and engagement towards problems, issues and challenges;
    • Active participation of every member of the group to resolve these;
    • More fluid and agile communications within the group (team, organization or society);
    • An increased capital of innovation, synergy and engagement.


    Edith Luc, Ph.D.


    © 2011 Edith Luc. All Rights Reserved.

    The First Steps to Implementing a Shared Leadership Approach Within a Group or Organization

    Our current era is defined by social changes, constantly emerging new information technologies and problems of increasing complexity and diversity for organizations.


    Those wishing to succeed by distinguishing themselves and increasing their visibility in their domain will need to reevaluate their notion of performance by considering the potential of collective contributions that can be created by a shared and collaborative type of leadership.


    The mission of changing the old concept of leadership into one that can be adapted to 21st century organizations is a necessary but difficult task for leaders and figureheads.


    Here are two changes you can start to make to your own pre-conceived notions of leadership that will help you in turn to implement this approach within your team or organization.


    1. Do not think of leadership as an individual process.

    The principles of shared leadership go against the common idea that leadership is a privilege, an ability limited to individuals in positions of authority or who were gifted with the innate skills that pre-dispose them to become leaders.


    By changing your way of thinking about the subject, you can encourage and influence others around you to begin thinking this way. These people will in turn influence others around them to consider leadership as a process of dynamic influence that involves all individual members of a team, organization or society.


    2. Encourage values of respect, diversity, inclusion and collaboration amongst individuals.

    The implementation of shared leadership within a team or organization requires encouraging and transmitting every individual’s values of respect regardless of their status or role within the group.


    To introduce the idea of a new form of leadership, you can begin encouraging the inclusion of diverse perspectives and the collaboration of every worker implicated in the achievement of a common objective.


    This can be done by increasing the amount of both formal and informal discussions amongst members of your group. Another way to create a collaborative work environment that can lead to innovation is by constantly reminding partners and collaborators of the values, norms, beliefs and execution strategies characterizing the organization and differentiating it from others.


    By doing this, you remind others that they are all working towards the same end and that the combination of every individual’s resources and skills can increase the quality of the results towards achieving the mission.


    Are the benefits really worth the efforts?

    Some of the benefits of implementing a shared leadership approach in an organization include: an increased performance, mobilization and propensity to innovate and a better general work environment.


    Another way to look at this is to consider whether any leader can afford to exclude the collective intelligence and collaboration of the greatest number of people for the achievement of their team or company’s objectives in an era where challenges are increasingly more complex and the competition is more fierce?


    Edith Luc, Ph.D.


    © Edith Luc. All Rights Reserved.

    5 Tactics to Develop a Sense of Self-Efficacy in Leadership

    I’ve had the opportunity to meet and discuss with many leaders in the past 20 years, especially during a study I conducted on leaders of various organizations and from different countries. I asked them the following question:


    What made you develop your leadership skills while work colleagues did not do the same?


    By analyzing their answers I was able to develop five strategies for anyone wishing to develop their leadership skills to convince a partner, an associate, colleagues, the banker or even clients.


    Encouraging and reinforcing your sense of self-efficacy in leadership.

    The practice of leadership is a progressive learning experience involving the improvement of one’s sense of self-efficacy. It can be developed by living different experiences, inspiring yourself from others, asking for feedback, imagining future successes and managing your stress in demanding situations.


    A strong sense of self-efficacy can act as the motivation and perseverance you need when facing challenges and difficulties. It can be developed by:


    1. Experimenting.

    Individuals wishing to develop their sense of self-efficacy should start by experimenting and developing their ability to influence in situations of increasing difficulty. After succeeding in moderately difficult situations such as convincing a colleague or friend, the task becomes easier in more challenging situations such as convincing a boss or a banker.


    However, what can seem an easy task for one can be more difficult for another and every individual must respect their own pace of progression. One should also be open to experiment and get out of their comfort zone. For example, if it is difficult for you to speak up in small and familiar groups, you should practice this skill and do it more often so that it becomes easier to speak up in larger and more challenging groups. Winston Churchill used this strategy.


    The ability to speak up in familiar situations and groups reinforces one’s sense of self-efficacy. It can also be used to influence in more difficult environments. Failures should be seen in a positive and constructive light: instead of putting into question your skills or admitting defeat, you should acknowledge the progress you made by congratulating yourself for the efforts you made. The opposite of experimentation is choosing the easy way out of a problem.


    In other words, you shouldn’t be afraid to DARE! Dare to get out of your comfort zone, speak up, continue the project despite the deceptions encountered along the way, put forward new ideas and perspectives and persevere even when difficulties and refusals arise.


    2. Observing and learning from others.

    The second strategy to develop your sense of self-efficacy in leadership involves getting inspired by one or many role models. Observing successful people, how they face situations, their actions, behaviors and business strategies are important sources of inspiration.


    You might select a leader belonging to a familiar environment such as a CEO or the President of a successful company; you might also find inspiration in the actions and points of view of leaders from other, less familiar environments.


    You can observe other leaders directly. Your inspiration could also come from written works such as biographies. Mintzberg demonstrate that famous leaders are often inspired by the success stories and biographies of others. Another way to learn from others is asking questions, speaking with and learning from people who faced and overcame different challenges.


    3. Seeking support in family and friends.

    The support of friends, family, colleagues or other individuals can also develop your sense of self-efficacy. For example, a boss, colleague, friend or parent that notices and applauds the progress, abilities and potential of an individual can give them the moral support they need to pursue their objectives.


    However, not all comments and feedback are positive. It is therefore important to distinguish between comments that should be ignored and those that can be used as potential solutions or approaches. In the interviews I conducted, some leaders even admitted turning negative comments into a stronger determination to succeed and prove them wrong!


    4. Learning to relax before and during stressful situations.

    Learning to relax by projecting yourself facing a stressful situation and being relaxed when facing such situations are two complementary approaches that can develop your sense of self-efficacy. Both approaches demand a great deal of self-control, however I personally believe that anything can be achieved with motivation and perseverance.


    Some ways to learn to relax before and after stressful situations include: being optimistic and thinking positively, developing a constructive dialog and focusing on achievements rather than defeats.


    5. Projecting yourself positively.

    You can weaken your potential to succeed if you imagine yourself failing. Some studies have demonstrated that if an athlete is scared of falling or making a false move, they actually increase their chances of failing. Consequently, an athlete has a better chance of succeeding if they imagine themselves succeeding during their performance.


    In the same way as athletes, individuals wishing to become successful leaders shouldn’t imagine themselves failing in the achievement of their objectives.



    In my opinion, daring to speak and to act is the first step for those wishing to develop their leadership. One way to do this is increasing your ability to influence in different situations and environments, beginning with easy and familiar ones and moving to more challenging ones. Another way to influence discussions is listening first and then developing an argument that will potentially influence a stubborn person or group.


    The ability to influence is also developed by living different experiences (successes, challenges, failures), learning with the support of others, projecting yourself succeeding and learning to manage your stress in difficult situations.


    Edith Luc, Ph.D.


    © 2011 Edith Luc, All Rights Reserved.