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Do you know that there’s one leadership style that can maximise team effectiveness and make leading an organisation better? It’s the shared leadership model. Instead of being the sole captain, lead with others. Let’s see what shared leadership is.

What is Shared Leadership?

Shared leadership is the distribution of power and influence between two or more team members. Instead of having one person dictate the course of action, each person leads according to their strengths and knowledge.  Sometimes, there might still be one person in charge, but their role is more to oversee the operation of tasks. Overall, the sharing of power and influence achieve successful outcomes in this type of leadership.

Shared Leadership vs Traditional Leadership

Shared leadership is very much different from traditional leadership. The differences are present in the leading structure, style and methods.

Power 

In traditional leadership, one person has the ultimate power over the team. People follow their directions. They often hold people accountable for their actions. However, shared leadership has a more collaborative approach. Multiple people make the decisions.

Responsibilities

In traditional leadership, each person’s responsibility is determined beforehand -with little to no autonomy provided. The success or failure of the project is usually credited to one person. In shared leadership, an individual has more autonomy in decision-making. The team members share the responsibilities, success or failure. Each person works according to their expertise and consults with each other.

Communication 

Traditional leadership often has a vertical hierarchy. The communication flows from top to bottom. The people at the top often have the final say.

In shared leadership, communication flows both vertically and horizontally. This means that leading decisions come both from people of higher positions and people of the same level in the company.

Importance of Shared Leadership

Sharing leadership responsibilities has many positive impacts in the workplace. A 2021 study revealed how shared leadership impacted project success. Below are the top positive impacts:

Increase productivity:  the teams work faster and more efficiently when the “power” isn’t monopolized. Members are more open to sharing and discussing their ideas.  People are willing to tap into their capabilities to improve their work. They are more committed to the task at hand and give their best.

Develop diverse opinions: when people aren’t constricted under one model of leadership, they have more freedom to go against the flow. This allows for innovative ideas. The team gains more inspiration through diverse opinions. It can lead to better results faster.

Enhance teamwork: shared leadership is an interdependency system. Everyone contributes to the work. When needed, tasks are distributed according to each person’s strength. Nonetheless, people consult each other to move forward. Everyone is an active participant in the success or the failure of a project. This means, that no one is ever the sole responsible for the work’s outcome.

Encourage autonomy: people don’t have to wait for direct orders but work independently. They have the opportunity to manage the resources available to produce desired results. Autonomous workers tend to be more productive.

Reinforce a sense of contribution: people like to feel they contributed to something. In the workplace, that sense of accomplishment is enhanced with the shared leadership model. When the team members’ participation is taken into account, they participate more.

Fundamentals of Shared Leadership

Some characteristics make shared leadership an effective leading style.

A shared purpose: people can only decide together if they are working toward the same goal. With the company or organisation’s visions in mind, it will be easier for the team to focus and work together.

Respect and trust: shared leadership can only work in a respectful environment. Respect ensures everyone is taken seriously, it gives space for constructive criticism, and it allows people to be assertive in their decision-making. Encourage and trust each other and the team will grow.

Effective communication: communication is key to business success. Without effective communication, no one will know what needs to be done. The respective leaders communicate amongst them and with other team members.

Personal accountability: there’s not one person that will ask others to report to them. Everyone on the team must have a sense of personal responsibility, and take accountability for their obligations.

When to Use Shared Leadership?

To get the full advantages of a shared leadership style in a company, you have to implement it at the right moment. For instance, traditional leadership might make more sense in a start-up because the entrepreneur paves the way for their employees.

But when the company grows and skilled people are developing, it would be beneficial to shift to shared leadership. This leadership style is more beneficial to a team or a company where people trust each other. 

It’s also best to take into account the personalities of the workers. Are they usually open to change? Is teamwork efficient? Are they okay with autonomous work? All those questions are important to keep in mind before shifting to shared leadership.

Application of Shared Leadership in the Workplace

In terms of organisational performance and teamwork, shared leadership has proven to be more effective than traditional leadership. However, implementing it can be challenging.

First, people aren’t always open to change, especially if you are switching leadership styles. Second, every skilled person may not be able to lead. Third, some people or teams may work better under the direct leadership style. Nevertheless, it still is a great way to lead to success.

Here’s how you can apply and implement shared leadership in the workplace:

Communicating: inform your working staff of the intended process. Make sure they understand what shared leadership is and its importance. Listen to their worries and inquiries. Allow for constructive criticism, but refrain from judgement and discrimination. Encourage openness and transparency

Coaching: some people are natural leaders, and some are formed. Invite the people to take part in leadership workshops. Have some simulation sessions to see how different people work together. Place different people in positions of leadership once in a while. Be present to provide guidance when needed

Building: create different teams. Appoint at least two leaders for each team. For long-lasting work, change appointed leaders. Allow the teams to select their leader or to volunteer for the position. Provide clear goals and objectives. Provide the necessary resources and guidelines, and develop systems.

Tracking: track each team’s performance and adjust as needed. Compare the result from before and after the implementation.  Keep the company’s goals in mind to measure progress.

Challenges of Shared Leadership

As beneficial as shared leadership is, it can present some challenges. Although it’s possible to manage them, it’s best to be aware of them:

Time: change takes time. Switching leadership styles doesn’t happen overnight. People have to get out of their comfort zone and adapt to something new. This calls for patience and understanding.

Collaboration: people might be reluctant at first to lead together and different personalities might clash. On the other hand, some people may not be comfortable leading. Emphasize teamwork in your company.

Efficiency: if not done correctly, shared leadership will make a team less efficient. Hence, have a working system and methods in place before applying this leadership style in your company.

Tips for a Successful Shared Leadership

Implementing shared leadership requires a lot of adjustment and understanding. Use these tips to do it successfully:

  • Create a safe and trusting environment
  • Allow space for autonomy and independent working
  • Learn your team’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Encourage mutual respect
  • Emphasize communication in the organisation
  • Encourage initiative
  • Trust your staff in their decision-making

Conclusion

Any type of business, organisation or team has to be led one way or another. If you have found that traditional leadership doesn’t work for you, it may be time to implement shared leadership. Check out this article to become a better leader.

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