Shared Leadership Can Boost Team Performance

How is shared leadership different from ordinary leadership? Traditional models of leadership involve a formal leader who holds authority and power and has a set of followers. The leader delegates, makes decisions, and holds followers accountable.

In contrast, the idea of shared leadership relies more on the sharing of authority, power, and influence. Teams that have more shared leadership still have a formal leader; however, their leader is willing to pass authority to the team when it is appropriate. Is shared leadership good for teams? If so, how do we transition from more traditional models of leadership to a model of shared leadership? Researchers (Chiu, Owens, & Tesluk, 2016) examined 62 teams across a variety of organizations in Taiwan to find out.

SHARED LEADERSHIP INCREASES TEAM PERFORMANCE

The researchers found that teams characterized by shared leadership had better task performance than teams where leadership was not shared. Why? Each team member has a diverse set of skills, abilities, and expertise. In shared leadership, all team members act as leaders and followers at different times. As a result, when leadership is shared among team members, the team can leverage the expertise of each individual at different times and in different ways.

HOW CAN I PROMOTE SHARED LEADERSHIP?

Authority and power inherently reside with the formal leader of a team. It is up to that leader to set the stage for shared leadership. The researchers found that the more humility formal leaders show, the more likely their teams are to embrace shared leadership.

Leaders can show humility by taking the following steps:

  • Admitting their own mistakes and limitations
  • Highlighting others’ unique strengths and contributions
  • Showing openness to new ideas and learning from others
  • Emphasizing the importance of listening before speaking
  • Empowering employees to take on leadership roles

ORGANIZATIONAL IMPLICATIONS

Teams can leverage the unique strengths of individual team members by promoting shared leadership. As a formal leader, engaging in behavior that shows humility can set the stage for team members to take on leadership roles. The effectiveness of shared leadership, however, relies on the capabilities of team members. The more capable team members are, the more shared leadership will be effective in boosting performance.

 

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Chiu, C-Y., Owens, B.P. & Tesluk, P.E. (2016). Initiating and utilizing shared leadership in teams: The role of leader humility, team proactive personality, and team performance capability. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101, 1705-1720.

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