In a collaborative context in which “no one and everyone” is in charge, the presence of empowering and shared leadership is essential. The antidote to a top-down and hierarchical model, shared leadership rests on a managing process in which partners create solutions and strategies together. The hallmarks of this approach to leadership include collaborative problem-solving and decision-making, and a transparent process that leaves all parties on equal footing and with equal weight.

A comparison of Traditional vs. Shared Leadership

Traditional Leadership Shared Leadership
Displayed by a person’s position in a group or hierarchy Identified by the quality of people’s interactions rather than their position
Leadership evaluated by whether the leader solves problems Leadership evaluated by how people are working together – Collaborative problem solving & Decision making
Leaders provide solutions and answers All work to enhance the process and to make it more fulfilling
Distinct differences between leaders and followers People are interdependent.  All are active participants in the process of leadership
Communication often formal Communication is crucial with stress on conversation

Source: “Shared Leadership,” Michele Erina Doyle & Mark K. Smith, 2001

The major benefit of shared leadership is the sense of ownership felt by each partner, ample space for building trust, the elimination or minimization of turf issues, access to more and better data and ideas, and an increased opportunity for impact. There are some challenges to this model of leadership too: it takes time to practice Shared Leadership. You must learn how to work together, negotiate rather than unanimously decide and dedicate time within the working day and the workings of your partnership to focus on decision making and process. But the payoff is huge in terms of buy-in and joint ownership.

Shared leadership – Debunking some myths

What it is not:

  • Equal roles and responsibilities
  • Equal power
  • Delegation instead of its ownership & responsibility

What it requires:

  • Being clear about responsibility vs. authority
  • Trust & transparency
  • Clear communication

Time to practice and get it right