As today’s workplaces continue to become knowledge intensive with more and more of them depending on collaboration among multiple specialized people, shared leadership gains ground as the leadership style needed to outlast traditional vertical leadership models.
Shared leadership is a team phenomenon whereby leadership and influence are distributed among team members. In contrast with vertical leadership models, where a single individual takes the role of the leader, shared leadership relies on the team as a whole. This basically means that every team member is empowered to assume leadership in the team.
Let me illustrate the concept. This year, AFC Ajax, a soccer team from The Netherlands, made one of the most remarkable seasons in the UEFA Champions League (UCL) history after reaching the semifinals of this major competition. This was particularly astonishing as UCL is arguably considered the most competitive soccer tournament in the world. Without any top-rated player at that moment, AFC Ajax did not rely on any particular individual that could lead the team to secure victories. Instead, its success was resting on every player, from the goalkeeper to the forward, who were stepping up at the right moment and executing flawlessly. By sharing leadership on the field, the team showcased not just a brilliant soccer style but more importantly, it outperformed richest teams that were meant to win.
Similarly to Ajax’s epic story, nowadays, attention is increasingly dedicated to teams exhibiting shared leadership. These teams are more interdependent than those relying on the individualized actions of a single leader. Team members in these teams are involved in a wide variety of team functions such as:
- Defining the team’s mission and goals
- Monitoring team performance and feedback
- Encouraging team self-management
- Supporting the team’s social climate
As such, teams demonstrating shared leadership improve their performance beyond what effective vertical team leadership can contribute. In fact, research shows that teams demonstrating shared leadership outperform those exhibiting vertical leadership in a diverse range of team outcomes such as team performance, team creativity, and team satisfaction. This is because, among other reasons, when members provide leadership to teams and respond to the leadership of others, they exchange and share more information, experience higher commitment, and become more responsible for the decision-making processes.
But how do you know whether your team demonstrates shared leadership or not? At TalentMiles, we are currently working on Project Team Quest, a project that will enable teams to find answers to this question. Stay tuned for future news!
Pablo Alvarez Baeza is a Learning & Development Specialist at TalentMiles. His areas of expertise include the factors that spur learning and leadership in teams. Introducing innovative academic research, he is currently working on developing Project Team Quest with the goal of assisting working teams in unleashing their full potential. You can learn more about Pablo on his LinkedIn. He will continue sharing his developments in future posts, stay updated!