Shared leadership-a journey towards shared future

Shared leadership-a journey towards shared future

Groups of geese fly every year in the fall from Canada to the United States (they do so to escape the extremely cold weather in Canada during this time of the year). The flock of geese forms a V-shape pattern of flying, immediately after their take off, with one rotating goose in the center (as leader) and all the other geese following the leader in two close lines.

The most striking aspect of this observation is the fact that the goose in center has no qualms about giving up the leading position to another goose, as soon as it gets tired. The lesson is “It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership.”

Businesses have migrated from the old command and control models to the open commitment oriented models. You can’t expect the organizations to grow unless employees feel accountable towards their job responsibilities and are willing to contribute “above and beyond”. Hence the concept of shared leadership has gained prominence over the recent years.

Carson, Tesluck, and Marrone (2007) defined shared leadership as “An emergent team property that results from the distribution of leadership influence across multiple team members.”

The premise of shared leadership lies on the fact that there still exist a considerable number of employees who draw motivation from intrinsic factors. These individuals don’t want an extrinsic corroboration of their value to the organization. They draw inspiration from having contributed to the growth journey of their peers, teams and organization.

Empowerment and Engagement A very good example of shared leadership is when decision-making is not concentrated in a few hands but gets distributed across multiple levels of hierarchy. Employees in such scenario feel empowered and are highly engaged with work through the perceived responsibility and self-control. An engaged employee is much more likely to contribute to organizational effectiveness as compared to one with low engagement levels.

Shared leadership is not about ensuring that everyone enjoys the same rights and authority but creating a culture where employees feel free to share new ideas and are willing to embrace risk for delivering higher returns.

Team Cohesiveness

Shared leadership also breeds spirit of cohesiveness, collaboration and team-work. Power distance acts as an impediment to higher contributions from employees. Power-distance will collapse in the face of shared leadership as power will not be vested in few but will be spread across the board. Collaborative decision-making will ensure diversity of thoughts and solutions. Collaboration and team work are important dimensions of high performance work culture leading to superior work performance.

Open Communication

Shared leadership ensures that team members regularly communicate with one another. It also ensures that teams don’t come apart due to communications barriers amongst the team members. Open and continuous communication ensures that critical issues are not ignored, rather handled in good time and spirit. Open and transparent communication will infuse higher degree of trust amongst employees. Increased dialogue between employees leads to higher level of consensus and buy-in. When employees are confident that their opinions matter to the organization; their work-satisfaction levels also increase.

Shared leadership, hence, results in increased team empowerment and engagement, enhanced team cohesiveness and trust; leading to higher level of consensus and satisfaction.

It is also very important to note that shared leadership is not same as co-leadership. In co-leadership two individuals share the leadership roles and responsibilities equally between the two. Empirical evidences do not project a good track record for co-leadership models.

Creation of shared leadership culture is a conscious effort and needs very high level of commitment for success. Everyone right from top management to front line needs to have complete confidence in making sure that the efforts pay off their dividends.

The challenges faced in this journey are work allocation demarcation, delayed decision-making (endeavors to reach consensus) and conflicts pertaining to organizational structure.

Carson et al. (2007) proposed that shared leadership is facilitated by an overall team environment that consists of three dimensions: shared purpose, social support, and voice.

Unless these are in unison shared leadership will remain a distant fantasy and dream.

–by Prof. Kusum Pawar