How Shared Leadership Impacts Team Effectiveness

Topic(s): leadership, performance, teams
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (March 2014)
Article: A meta-analysis of shared leadership and team effectiveness.
Authors: D. Wang, D. A. Waldman, & Z. Zhang.
Reviewed by: Rachel Williamson

Understanding the relationship between leadership and team effectiveness in the workplace has always been important. Recently, a new type of leadership known as shared leadership has become more widely used.


Shared leadership refers to two or more people who share both their influence and responsibilities, rather than having just one person leading a team. Although shared leadership is becoming much more common, this study (Wang, Waldman, & Zhang, 2014) is the first in-depth article to examine whether it matters what the leaders are sharing, and if this can impact the overall effectiveness of the team. In this article, shared leadership is compared to another type of leadership called vertical leadership. The approaches differ somewhat, in that shared leadership consists only of a downward influence from the leaders, whereas vertical leadership includes influences from upward, downward, or even from peers.


The article analyzed 42 different studies measuring the impact of shared leadership on team effectiveness. The main focus was on examining three different categories of leadership styles: new-genre, traditional, and cumulative. New-genre leadership can be thought of as a visionary type of leading, where empowering and charismatic traits are the focus. Traditional leadership is more transactional, focused on supportive leading and an initiating structure. Finally, cumulative leadership is when all the various leadership styles are molded together.

This article found that using new-genre leadership or cumulative leadership generally has a more positive impact on team effectiveness than traditional leadership styles.


The big picture takeaway from this article is that the more complex a team’s work is, the stronger the effects of shared leadership will be. In other words, if a team is working on an incredibly difficult task, the shared leadership style will have a more significant impact on their effectiveness in tackling that task. In short, if a team is working on a complex task, it is ideal to use either a new-genre or a cumulative style of shared leadership, rather than a traditional style.


Wang, D., Waldman, D. A., & Zhang, Z. (2014). A Meta-Analysis of Shared Leadership and Team Effectiveness. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99(2), 181-198.