A meta-analysis of 72 research papers just published has thrown up nine points for human resources and development professionals to consider when looking at a shared leadership system. The paper looked at shared leadership at a team level rather than the macro organisational level.
Businesses and other organisations are often fairly risk averse with regards to leadership and the shared model appears more often at lower levels than at upper levels in business as a result. The study, published in the Journal ‘Advances in Developing Human Resources’ found that there were 9 consistent themes across all the 72 previously published research studies:
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The 9 shared leadership issues
- Team working improvements. Shared leadership is an important and useful system that enhances team working. In particular: “improved team performance, effectiveness, innovation and learning”.
- It frequently contributes more than a vertical leadership model does. The researchers qualify this by saying that shared leadership can improve team performance through the negotiated and often better and more rounded and thought through outcomes that do not always come from the vertical leadership model.
- Responsibilities normally given to the team manager are shared among the team. This it has been found, gives greater ownership and consequently motivation to succeed across the team.
- Developing shared leadership takes time. There are broadly two phases to its bedding in – the transition phase, where each team member collectively and individually gets used to the new leadership approach, and the active phase, where the team moves from bedding in to taking action on whatever tasks it has been assigned.
- Core skills and attitudes required. The researchers found that shared leadership is more likely to succeed where there is integrity, self-leadership, a collective orientation and a trusting disposition,. Conversely shared leadership can help to develop these traits.
- Often good vertical leadership can accelerate the emergence of shared leadership. In much the same way as a hands off manager who trusts their team to do their jobs well is often regarded as a good manager, the transformational and empowering models of leadership were cited as being particularly good for this. Poor leadership however, such as aversive and directive leadership, can hamper shared leadership. It has also been found that lower down, shared leadership can actually enhance the quality of vertical leadership within the organisation.
- Those participating in shared leadership need to have a “shared understanding of the team’s purpose, task and situation”.
- As well as traditional team and task performance, thinking in terms of social networks and the value they bring is a useful way to provide insights as to how the self-leading team is functioning and performing.
- The final point is that the quality of the shared leadership’s impact is influenced by having a supportive environment, task interdependence and also by the complexity of the work the team performs..
The study found that shared leadership does not work in every situation. However, in complex and changing situations, shared leadership should be seriously considered.
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