Shared Leadership Commentary

It is no surprise that companies today are drawn to the benefit of management that is shared, rather than concentrated in a single, charming person. No matter the precise organizational structure or exactly what it’s called, the times seem to call for leaders who can be first amongst equates to.

This is more than delegation. It has to do with a team sharing a sense of function and duty for the overall leadership of the company. Various individuals may spearhead different elements of the group’s work, but everybody supervises, always.

Recent research on modification management groups, virtual teams, and brand-new startup teams has actually revealed that teams in which leadership is shared, instead of vested on a single person, can be very reliable, demonstrating through quantitative methods that shared management can, and does, cause enhanced organizational efficiency. And yet companies stay stubbornly hierarchical. Anybody who has actually attempted to share the concerns and advantages of management in their groups has most likely observed that doing so is far from simple.

Over the last years, assisting the leadership development of numerous senior executives attempting the shift to shared leadership, I have actually frequently seen the very same phenomenon. While everyone invites the idea, a culture of shared leadership does not quickly grow.

To get more information and respond to the questions above, I embarked on a thorough research study of the shift to shared management. Specifically, I followed, for 18 months, the leading management team of a global expert services company in which the official leader, the Managing Director, had fixed to share leadership with the entire team. This included three practical heads of Finance, HR and Marketing, and four Executive Directors with Profit & Loss obligation for different sales divisions.

The findings suggest that in spite of its appeal in the accounts of management gurus, sharing management does not make the life of the CEO any simpler. However, it does make it very various.

The shift requires you, the formal boss, to move focus from analyzing details and developing choices to comprehending and managing psychological stress and moving relationships: between executive employee; in between them and you; and throughout the team’s boundaries. Below are a few of the patterns to search for in each of these three relationship domains, based on the research study findings. Recognizing when and how these patterns take place, bringing them to the group’s attention, and handling the feelings that underpin them is the CEO’s greatest obstacle in actually executing shared leadership.


Moving to shared management transforms the way decisions are made and changes the relationship between group members. While they might welcome having the authority to supervise the whole business, Executive VPs will discover it harder to manage each other. Used to reporting directly to you, they might hesitate to accept and work out the authorization to hold each other highly accountable for the performance of their processes or business system. They may collude in not providing each other a difficult time, awaiting you to step in. This will lead you to be the bearer of bad news unless you make it very clear that they need to both assistance and obstacle each other, rather than doing the former only.

Lastly, moving from private to shared leadership requires a shift in mindset amongst all members of the executive group– including the CEO. The characteristics I have explained are typically thought about dysfunctional, and undoubtedly, if left unexamined, they can achieve their hidden goal– keeping the much dreadful, yet familiar, old management model in location. While our impulse might be to overlook these tensions or aim to repair them rapidly, the shift to shared leadership requires that you bring them up in the open and treat them as opportunities for collective knowing.

Harvey Ostrow is an advocate of Shared Leadership in his Allstate Agency in Arlington Virginia.