What Is Shared Leadership? An Alternative To Democratize Power In a Company
The term shared leadership emerged in the 1990s when the absolute need to topple vertical organizations began to spread, flattening them and turning them horizontal. What did this mean? The hierarchy would be more distributed, and that responsibility and autonomy would lay the foundations for a less hierarchical operation. This need would mark the steps of the beginning of high-level shared leadership.
We define shared leadership as a model in which power does not emanate from a single leader or several, which falls in a cascade, but rather arises from each point and all organization members, horizontally, from the company.
Essential features of this leadership model are delegating and empowering workers to bet on the diversity of ideas and opinions, promoting their personal development within the company, and making them participate in decision-making as a key to boosting your motivation.
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Shared leadership, according to Peter Senge
In the words of Peter Senge, director of the Center for Organizational Learning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology :
“Our traditional conception of leaders, special people who set the direction to be followed, make the critical decisions, and infuse energy, is rooted in a non-systemic and individualistic worldview. Especially in the West, leaders are heroes, great characters who take center stage. To the extent that these myths continue to prevail, attention on immediate events and charismatic heroes will be accentuated rather than on systematic forces and collective learning.
(The Leader’s New Job, Creating Organizations Open to Learning — Sloan Management Review, Fall 1993.)
Warren Bennis says that many CEOs believe that their main task is to make team members leaders build other leaders, actively helping them reach their potential (Bennis and Goldsmith, 1997). This type of leadership can occur at any level of the hierarchical pyramid of an organization.
Organizations that opt for the decentralization of leadership within each company’s human resources, and put aside the idea that it is a romantic approach, have been able to experience significant benefits. Among other things:
- Increases employee involvement. At the moment that as employees, we feel that our contributions, our know-how, and our opinion are taken into consideration, the level of involvement multiplies.
- Power personal development. As we take on more responsibility, we automatically gain new strengths and abilities.
- It encourages creativity and collaborative work. We strive to make exciting contributions that generate conversation.
- Facilitates the discovery of new leaders. They say that only by observing someone can we know more about that person than by talking to them. And is that it is a straightforward way to see what strategies and attitudes each one faces in the face of adversity.
- It guarantees the acceptance of the decisions adopted. When decision-making is democratized, it is more inappropriate to “complain” if we do not agree with something since we have participated and contributed points of view to such a decision.
Avoid work overload. Mainly from senior management, since in this way, they will be able to prioritize their tasks and delegate those they consider necessary.
However, the truth is that, like almost everything in life, this model of shared leadership also has its risks. We may find ourselves faced with scenarios that lack unanimity, where it is impossible to delegate responsibility, or even scenarios in which it is necessary to find a balance between the freedom to let one do and supervision without interference. Hence the importance of setting obvious objectives and in writing.
Companies choose shared leadership for its advantages
As expected, the many advantages of shared leadership have led to implementing this organizational structure. But there are also other reasons: the progressive increase in mergers and acquisitions in recent years is an example. Although it may also be due to the growth of alliances and partnerships or market convergence.
More excellent value for the employee
Paying more attention to the evolution of the worker’s figure, there is a fundamental reason for the emergence of this type of leadership, flat structures, and autonomy promoted today.
For a long time, there has been a change of vision regarding the worker as a limited number to carry out their functions. Today, the worker is already considered in all spheres, each different and with new and divergent contributions.
It seeks to provide its workers with more elements, outstanding organizational citizenship, and involvement in its projects. Therefore, involving each company’s talent has led to the generation of these new models, which do nothing more than promote talent through decision-making.
Temporary shared leadership
There are also cases of companies that have chosen to use this form of leadership in particular periods or stages. It may be that during the time that passes while changes are being applied in the company, of any kind, it is decided to distribute the weight of the senior positions, with no intention of keeping it permanently once it returns to normal.
Although having incorporated shared leadership in companies has been successful in many cases, it is not always practical.
The factors of the company culture (such as individualism) and the values of each one (such as professional ambition at the expense of other people) can affect the result.
We must bear in mind that the type of leadership that we are instilling in our employees (autocratic, democratic, liberal, entrepreneurial, participatory, charismatic) will also have significant weight when it comes to assessing whether or not we have made the right choice, since they probably repeat the same patterns of the dynamic that we have created.
More and more organizations feel the push that demands more prominence from their workers, who are increasingly better trained and have more knowledge to offer.