This “Outside Consultant” column by Dr. Jacque Anderson, assistant dean of Executive Education, ran in the Star Tribune on March 8, 2021.

If you believe leadership is less about formal position and more about capability, shared leadership may be for your team. Shared leadership is the idea that leadership can be provided by more than just the formal leader. New research finds four key insights to develop shared leadership.

Because it is possible to share all leadership functions, the role of the leader is even more crucial. All 15 foundational leadership functions can be shared to some degree. So, developing leadership skills across the team is important. The formal leader’s responsibility is to behave as both a facilitator and a curator of the environment. Therefore, formal leaders must nurture trust and fortify the environment by embracing different personal styles as well as modeling good listening and facilitation skills. Expanding these skills and leveraging instruments, like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, can fuel broader team participation.

Corrective feedback is the part of leadership least likely to be shared. My recent research showed providing positive feedback was highly shared across the team, but the idea of corrective feedback was limited to very few. Corrective feedback from peers is important to improve performance, but in many cases, team members can feel neither empowered nor skilled enough to take on this critical role. Leaders need to give team members access to training specifically designed to foster feedback and build trust.

If you want the team to share leadership, then you have to share the planning. The 15 leadership functions used in my research were grouped into two key phases – planning and execution. The data indicated team participation in the planning phase directly increased overall shared leadership. Involve your team in the building of the vision and you will empower them to unleash the power of their shared leadership.

Team members are more engaged in shared leadership when they are satisfied with their leader. The data reveals shared leadership is strongly dependent on satisfaction with the leader. Thus, this illustrates the importance that the formal leader remains in tune to how they are perceived. Staying personally connected to the team through one-on-ones and team meetings is critical to building a culture where shared leadership can thrive.

Shared leadership has been shown to increase innovation and improve performance outcomes – and it may be just the leadership approach that provides a competitive advantage for your team.

Dr. Jacque Anderson is an assistant dean, Executive Education, at the University of St. Thomas.

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