The Beauty and Relevance of Shared Leadership


Since 1997, I’ve worked with four organizations that practice shared leadership and observed two others in which this method is the primary method of governance.

Here’s what I’ve learned through these experiences:

  • Although shared leadership often feels messy and uncomfortable at first, the model generally allows organizations to accomplish more than they could using traditional forms of leadership.
  • Shared leadership models and fosters collaboration with internal and external stakeholders.
  • Shared leadership expands — rather than diminishes — each leader’s impact.
  • Trust, mutual respect, conflict and dissent are essential ingredients to the model’s ongoing success.
  • Decision-making is strengthened by divergent perspectives.
  • Transparency is supported.
  • Succession planning occurs “real-time” in environments where there is more than one leader.
  • Shared leadership requires new and different skills and requires training, development, reasoning and logic, compassion, open, honest communication, and adaptability.
  • Shared leadership reduces isolation, stress, and burnout among leaders and attracts talent that values collaboration, relationship-building, AND performance.

Shared leadership does not automatically guarantee organizational success — although five of the organizations experienced significant growth while using the model.  It does, in my experience; result in a more effective use of talent, higher levels of engagement and retention, and better outcomes.