Shared Leadership: Characteristics, Benefits, Challenges [Tips & Tricks]
In this article, we delve into the intricacies of shared leadership, exploring its virtues, potential pitfalls, and the transformative impact it holds.
“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”
– Rosalynn Carter, former first lady of the United States.
To be a leader is one of the biggest responsibilities that one can have. A leader has some of the most commendable effects on an individual’s life. A leader creates the path for an individual to walk toward the path of greater success.
The responsibilities of a leader are many and, in most cases, uncountable. While most businesses prefer a traditional way of leadership, newer organizations are more keen on picking up on the shared leadership style.
It is also proved that shared leadership is comparatively more effective than and efficient than the traditional ways of leadership. However, the efficiency may only be exercised at a full force if the shared leadership style is properly planned and then implemented.
So, without any further delay, let us get to the details of shared leadership and figure out why companies must embrace this style more.
What Is Shared Leadership?
Shared leadership is a concept where each employee within an organization takes the responsibility and ownership for their role in the organization. In simple terms, shared leadership allows employees to take control of their own duties without being supervised by a supervisor or a manager.
Shared leadership is a horizontal leadership model in which employees and teams make collective decisions for the organization, contradictory to the traditional triangle model in which an executive suite directs the directions and visions for the organization.
However, the key aspect of shared leadership is that it is gradient. It means that shared leadership can be interpreted in multiple forms and structures.
For instance, two of the most popular ways in which shared leadership is interpreted can be:
- No CEO
- Voted leadership
We shall now see what these two interpretations are all about.
Solodev, a popular SAAS organization, initially planned on hiring a CEO but found that the company culture was not much accepting of this idea. So, the decisions and responsibilities of the CEO were transferred to the “Executive Committee,” which included experts from different departments.
The experts and their different perspectives donated to the executive directions and decisions of the company. Founder Shawn Moore finally stepped forward when a decision paralysis emerged.
“Your goal as an executive is to build a company that can run without you, right? […] That’s why it’s important to empower your teams to make these decisions instead of relying solely on you.”
- Shawn Moore
While compromising with the traditional structure and nimble shared leadership, Haier, the Chinese appliance manufacturer, came up with its very own ownership model: Rendanheyi.
Haier realized that the traditional top to down hierarchical approach lacked agility and yet wanted a visionary cohesion that came with a typical leadership model. The Rendanheyi model resulted in better communication and improved productivity.
Necessarily, the Rendanheyi depends on how micro enterprises act as relatively smaller autonomous units within the bigger companies, alongside other factors. The tactical and operational leadership devised within each of the units is voted upon by the employees every year, whereas the visionary leadership is handled by the upper management.
Thus, a combination of traditional and shared leadership styles is what Rendanheyi is all about.
Components Of Shared Leadership
Shared leadership is slowly spreading throughout different sectors. With a new concept gaining such popularity, there were multiple researches done on the same to know more details about its operations.
The same researchers have found that there are four main components behind the structure of shared leadership. The four components may include:
- Internal team environment
- Task cohesion
- Shared leadership principles
- Task satisfaction
Internal Team Environment
A research has come up with the revelation that shared leadership is directed overall by the team environment that comprises of:
- Shared purpose
- Voice, and
- Social support
The environment of the internal team caters to the willingness of the team members to offer their leadership influence alongside relying on the leadership skills of the other team members.
Shared purpose is a situation where the team members have the same understanding of the main objectives of the team and focus on achieving the collective goals.
Voice defines the internal communication level throughout the whole task. Voice refers to the feeling that you can speak up whenever you need to and that challenges are valued.
Social support is the dynamic within the team that gives a scope to people to support one another within the team, perhaps, helping each other out as tasks tend to get more difficult.
A team does not have to gel well to work well. I am pretty sure that most of you reading through this have had a situation in your work life where you would have never gone to a pub with a certain individual, but they still “sailed through the gates of hell” with them only because they were considered good at their job.
Task cohesion is the shared attraction and commitment of the group toward their set goal.
A notable amount of studies have suggested that task cohesion has a lot more to do with work performance than it has to do with interpersonal cohesion.
Shared Leadership Principles
Shared leadership revolves around the concept of a team conducting themselves while no one individual is being given the responsibility to coordinate or lead it. Everyone is in charge of their own responsibilities for their task element and also for the task as a whole.
While another study has fairly explained shared leadership as
“a dynamic, interactive influence process among individuals in groups for which the objective is to lead one another to the achievement of group or organizational goals or both.”
Shared leadership, in essence, is the partnership of professionals, each taking responsibility for their jobs.
Task satisfaction necessarily is the perception of the group to complete the tasks in pretty much the same way as the individuals assess their tasks through job satisfaction.
Task satisfaction refers to the group level counterpart of personal job satisfaction, and studies before have referred to it as
“a group’s shared attitude toward both its task and the associated work environment.”
The paper published in The Leadership Quarterly found,
“when dealing with creative tasks, the internal team environment and task cohesion predicts and tends to lead to shared leadership which, in turn, determines task satisfaction.”
Developing Shared Leadership In Workplace
There are three critical principles that help in developing shared leadership in a professional workplace:
- Encourage transparency
- Support autonomy
- Provide a safe environment
Transparency is the ultimate answer to every question related to the trust and satisfaction of the employees. When each of the employees is well aware of the situation, perspective, and goals of the company, they would all be equally involved on the same page.
According to TinyPulse and Forbes,
“transparency was the determining factor in employee happiness, with a 93% correlation rate.”
An autonomous atmosphere means a working condition where employees get the freedom to make certain decisions about their work. While most organizations will not be adopting a W. L. Gore model, which allows employees to choose the job that they want to take up, businesses can still benefit a lot by providing more autonomy in selective areas.
According to Chung-Yan, Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada – this new method of management might be just as simple as giving responsibility to individuals for jobs and making sure that their managers/supervisors are open to hearing the inputs on different subjects.
“It’s not the same as giving equal responsibility or the same responsibility to more than one person,”
“It’s about making sure managers have an open door and that those who take a risk and share an idea or alert managers to a problem don’t get punished for it.”
Provide A Safe Environment
A safe environment defines a work atmosphere where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas in an inclusive culture. The best of the ideas usually emerge from the minds of people that do their everyday work because they are highly experienced at their job.
They are also the very first people to notice if something doesn’t look right. When the ideologies of employees are heard and accepted, the team benefits accordingly from their observations.
Shared Leadership: Benefits
The benefits of incorporating shared leadership in an organization are:
Increased Performance Of The Organization
A meta analysis confirmed that shared leadership is considered 34% more effective than the traditional form of leadership. It is because the foundation of shared leadership is innovation and change, which certainly has an optimistic effect on team performance than traditional leadership.
Improvement In Collaboration, Transfer Of Knowledge, And Innovative Thinking
Shared leadership encourages knowledge sharing and trust among employees.
One research has also discovered that shared leadership was mentionable helpful in developing knowledge sharing within a vertical work environment, which means digital and decentralized terms. Moreover, sharing knowledge increases the partnership within the organization and improves innovation and employee commitment, development, and involvement.
Increase In Job Satisfaction And Employee Motivation
The Journal of Social Psychology published that shared leadership triggers team cohesion, satisfaction, and consensus, depending on the collaborative effects.
Necessarily, shared leadership encourages the relationship between an individual employee and the collective identity of the team and the organization.
Emerging Of Natural Leaders, Not Hired Ones
When an organization opts for the shared leadership approach, natural leaders are born within the team. Practically, this trend brings out more capable leaders as they are not selected but born.
Shared leadership also empowers the relationship dynamic between a leader and a worker. The reason is that when a leader grows internally within the organization, they improve the cohesion of the team, its interplay, and performance.
Contrastingly, this may also turn out to be a risk if the natural leader does not become clear.
Is Shared Leadership Really Effective?
“Teams with shared leadership have less conflict, more consensus, more trust, and more cohesion than teams that do not have shared leadership,”
as written by Peter Northouse in his book Leadership: Theory and Practice.
Shared leadership has effective benefits not just for the members of the organization but also for the company as a whole. It helps in improving employee engagement and also job satisfaction. It also allows the company to quickly adapt to changes and bring out new innovative ideas.
Shared Leadership: Challenges
The challenges faced by shared leadership are as follows:
- The fundamentals of shared leadership must be set hard and fast.
- The senior employees who are not very welcoming to change may respond to shared leadership pretty adversely.
- Shared leadership may result in elongated communicating and decision making, interpersonal conflicts, etc.
- Shared leadership may be wrongly used by opportunists within the organization.
- May cause a work life imbalance and burnout
Shared Leadership Vs. Traditional Leadership
Traditionally, leadership follows a triangular hierarchy. One executive is supposed to shoulder the accountabilities and responsibilities of the entire organization, and the subordinates are supposed to carry out the same.
The leadership chain is further demonstrated by more detailed accountabilities and responsibilities such as the top managers, middle-managers, employees, etc.
Contradicting to that, shared leadership divides the accountabilities and responsibilities out to each of the employees within the organization that is operating in dynamic and pool teams.
For instance, rather than an executive being accountable and responsible for the work of the junior employee, the individual employee will take responsibility for their own time and work.
As one of the leaders in shared leadership and dynamic reteaming, Robert Keidel explained this type of work as
“a baseball team where each employee is pooled at their station, working, and led independently and interdependently towards a shared company vision.”
The Bottom Line
Shared leadership is one of the newer concepts where leadership is divided among individuals rather than making an executive or anyone of a higher rank accountable for the work of a junior.
Shared leadership is a very efficient way for organizations to operate and also increases productivity within the organization.
However, it is still pretty new and will take some time to get accepted, but the sooner, the better.
I am hoping this article was helpful to your knowledge. Kindly comment down any thoughts you have regarding the same.