Traditionally, the concept of leadership has always been understood as a vertical top-down relationship between an individual – the leader, in fact – and the rest of a group, the subordinates. But over the years, not a few alternative leadership models have emerged in corporate realities, both to cope with market changes and to respond to organizational needs for greater flexibility. More often than not, resume examples show us that almost everyone has leadership skills, but practice shows that applicants write one thing, but in real life they are different. Among these, one of the best known is the “shared leadership” model.

This model replaces the leader single decision-maker with a collaborative decision-making process, sharing knowledge and collective responsibility for results, among all team members. In this way, decision-making power is no longer the exclusive prerogative of a manager but is divided between the different organizational levels of the work team. And, when a critical issue emerges, the team person with the most suitable skills and experience takes the lead in the process until the problem is solved.

Because shared leadership is of great long-term value

Marshal Goldsmith, a well-known American leadership coach, describes the phenomenon in an article for the Harvard Business Review: “Shared leadership maximizes the contribution of all human resources in an organization, empowering individuals and providing them with the opportunities to assume leadership positions in specific areas of expertise. More and more complex markets increase expectations and pressure on the leadership, so much so that the task in many cases is simply too heavy for a single individual. Sharing leadership is not easy, but it is certainly possible and, in fact, in many cases, it is the key to success ”.

In fact, shared leadership models have become increasingly popular in an increasing number of sectors, thanks to the advantages they can bring to both small and large organizations. Which? For example, encourage employees to experience leadership, reduce the distance from power within the hierarchy and stimulate the will to take initiative.

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Furthermore, shared leadership arises from team members, so it is by its very nature flexible, dynamic, interactive and rapidly adaptable to any evolving business reality. It maximizes the contribution of all staff within the company, leverages the contribution of talents and strengthens individual workers, offering them the opportunity to assume leadership in their areas of expertise.

Shared leadership also has a positive impact on the overall effectiveness of the team: the feeling of being more empowered results in higher levels of involvement, team cohesion and job satisfaction.

How to introduce shared leadership

Experts have observed that it is easier to establish shared leadership where there is a high level of dedication among employees, a propensity for self-management and mutual trust. But that’s not enough. To create an environment conducive to “shared leadership”, here are a series of tips that may be useful to you:

  • Spread “power” among the most qualified people and cultivate their talent. Without forgetting that it is important to  identify the limits of decision-making power for each team member.
  • Foster an environment where workers are free to take action on various tasks (even the most difficult ones), to take risks, and to deal with the consequences. Build confidence in their abilities and skills. Trust your young leaders and focus on meritocracy.
  • Give the most qualified people autonomy in the tasks they should perform and encourage them to be “creators of creative solutions”. Once granted them with this autonomy, do not doubt their decisions and trust their opinions.
  • To make shared leadership work, it is essential to establish common goals that are in line with the corporate purpose. It will serve as a guideline for all discussion and decision making.