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.
SHARED LEADERSHIP is:
- 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.
SHARED LEADERSHIP is not:
- 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.