The Leader as a Team Player: Shared Leadership
Shared Leadership theory views the leadership role as a mutual influence process with shared responsibility for leading irrespective of formal positions. Per Neck, Bligh, Pearce & Kohles (2006), shared leadership is dynamic, ongoing, interactive, and simultaneous. The collective leadership skills possessed by the team far outweigh those of a single individual. This leadership type is often associated with decentralized management, mutual sharing of power and influence among the team members, and leading one another to achieve the team’s goals. The intended purpose of shared leadership per Carosn, Tesluk, and Marrone (2007) is to achieve a shared purpose, social support, and voice which connotes input and participation. The functions of shared leadership include reducing organizational conflicts, improves efficiency, and builds trust and cohesion among team members.
Shared leadership is highly spoken of in the Bible. Certain biblical principles such as teamwork and harmony can be used to explain the effectiveness of shared leadership. The Bible postulates that two are better than one in the Book of Ecclesiastes. The reason being they can work more effectively, complement each other’s weaknesses, and resist an external threat. The Bible also reckons the shared leadership style that is exemplified by locusts who lack a king but achieve an unmatchable level of efficiency and effectiveness. The essentiality of harmony in shared leadership is also well highlighted in the biblical account of the Tower of Babel. Though the people lacked a vertical, authoritative leader, they were able to share the leadership role and managed to build a tower high enough to warrant God’s intervention to stop it.
The strengths of shared leadership include united responsibility and a mutually inclusive decision-making process that fosters creativity, staff input, job satisfaction, a sense of worth, and employee empowerment (Pearce & Conger, 2002). Contrastingly, its weaknesses include difficulty in execution, excessive dedication, and changing organizational structure and relationships on each level. This type of leadership also puts the whole team at the mercy of the individual members. As such, an individual’s failure or incompetence will affect the whole team (Carosn, Tesluk & Marrone 2007).
Shared leadership can be applied in a teaching setup among teachers. Grade to teachers, for instance, can collaborate on how to effectively teach the grade two class while improving each other’s skills. The team will have to apply the principles of shared leadership including mutual accountability, trust, blame, goals, visions, and rewards. They will have to be meeting regularly and communicating effectively. Each one’s input and participation is key hence responsibilities will be divided. Together they will be able to achieve more than individually as per the biblical principle of teamwork. They can also complement and improve on each other’s weaknesses. This coincides with the biblical allusion of two being able to make each other warm.
Shared leadership is still relatively new compared to the conventional forms of leadership. The concept of shared responsibility and rewards is both advantageous and disadvantageous. As such caution should be taken before undertaking this type of leadership. The members of the team should be equally competent and skilled, though differently if the team is to benefit from each other. Additionally, this leadership type requires strong systems and structures because formal positions are ignored. As such it is hard to settle conflicts and give directions during disagreements. If these two precautions are taken into account, then shared leadership is the way to go for greater results.
Carson, J. B., Tesluk, P. E., & Marrone, J. A. (2007). Shared leadership in teams: An investigation of antecedent conditions and performance. Academy of Management Journal, 50(5), 1217-1234.
Neck, C. P., Bligh, M. C., Pearce, C. L., & Kohles, J. C. (2006). The importance of self‐and shared leadership in team-based knowledge work. Journal of Managerial Psychology.
Pearce, C. L., & Conger, J. A. (2002). Shared leadership: Reframing the hows and whys of leadership. Sage.