Style of leading in which responsibilities are distributed within a team or organization, and people within that team or organization lead each other.
Unlike traditional notions of leadership that focus on the actions of an individual, shared leadership refers to responsibilities shared by members of a group. Rather than having a single designated leader, two or more members of a team with shared leadership influence the others and help drive the team's performance toward its goals.
While by definition a team's members share responsibility for group outcomes, shared leadership means they also hold each other accountable for setting the team's goals and maintaining its direction. Shared leadership can involve all team members simultaneously or distribute leadership responsibilities sequentially over the group's duration. Leadership roles may be assigned based on expertise and experience.
Requirements of Shared Leadership
Research reveals that for shared leadership to merge and succeed, two conditions must be met:
Team members must be willing to extend their feedback to the team in a way that aims to influence and motivate the direction of the group.
Team members as a group must be disposed to accept and rely on the feedback of each other.
Three aspects of how a group interacts can facilitate shared leadership: shared purpose, social support, and voice. Shared purpose means team members have a similar understanding of the team's objective and collective goals. Social support means that team members contribute to each other's emotional and psychological well-being by offering encouragement and assistance. Voice refers to the degree to which team members believe they have input into how the team carries out its activities. Taken together, these group dynamics can foster a sense of trust and willingness to collaborate in support of team leadership.
Shared leadership also benefits from coaching from a respected person outside of the group. An external coach can provide guidance and advice to the team and also help individuals develop their leadership skills. Through active encouragement and positive reinforcement of team members who demonstrate leadership, coaching can foster independence and a sense of individual self-efficacy. Coaching can also nurture collective commitment to the team and its objectives, increasing the possibility that team members will demonstrate personal initiative.