There are few successful bodies that operate as a total hierarchy – with one single leader. We lead with others, in partnerships or managing teams, and these dynamics affect the way we lead, for better or for worse.
As shared leadership gains a bigger role in institutions, the need for improved co-leadership skills becomes greater for both businesses and individuals. As Michael D. Kokolowski explains in his study of the emergence of shared leadership in the present day, more and more, businesses are operating with teams of interactive minds who influence one another in their decision-making. He highlights three components of shared leadership that form a team environment: shared purpose, social support, and voice.
Sharing a vision is always the first step toward building a successful, cohesive team. A stampede of wild animals is powerful; a school of fish is beautiful. A collective of individuals running toward different targets is just chaos. Shared purpose is the magnet that helps groups maintain strength and direction when day-to-day operations take their toll on team togetherness. By sharing a vision and dividing roles and responsibilities among leaders, goals become less obscure and more obtainable. Fewer toes are stepped on, and more eyes are set on a single prize. When individual roles and a common purpose are clear, personal achievements become group successes.
A culture of support in the workplace is a crucial dimension of successful shared leadership. Empowering team players to act, to work together, to lead together – must be paired with a support system that fosters trust and teamwork. Social support is the safety net that gives team players the courage to act upon the empowerment that shared leadership creates, allowing for a sustainable shared leadership dynamic.
Praise and Taking Responsibility
Leaders can foster such social support in the workplace by allocating praise to team players and taking responsibility for failures, offering support to fellow leaders in addressing problems and solutions. Working together to identify opportunities for growth—and supporting one another in developing strategies to take advantage of such opportunities—develops mutual trust among team members and empowers co-leaders to reach higher potentials.
Voice might be the single-most important dimension of a successful team. Shared leadership is useless if in practice, one leader’s perspective drowns out the rest. For businesses to reap the benefits of co-leadership, each leader must be encouraged to speak, and provided with a platform of listeners. Such a platform can only be built by a group of co-leaders who value the voice as a tool for individual contribution and self-expression. The voice, as a translator of inner qualities and dedication, should be understood as such and treated with support and respect.
Organisational partnerships have great potential to forge products and outcomes that are innovative, unique and lasting. By investing in these partnerships through business leadership training sessions that value shared leadership as an effective means for group progress, co-leaders can take their teams to new heights, both personally and collectively.