About shared leadership
Shared leadership and letting go of control and direction feel like a leap of faith. Yet many organisations are working on it. To deepen our knowledge, some time ago we invited Prof Karen Wouters, associated with the Antwerp Management School (AMS) and Workitects, to take us through her research on shared leadership.
Throughout the session, it became clear to us once again that it is a necessity that organisations are engaged in rethinking leadership and exploring the trail of shared leadership. The issues facing organisations today are too complex to be contained by a single 'hero'. So leadership is no longer just in the management board or the office of (senior) leaders, but in every layer of the organisation, in every team.
Shared leadership is about enhancing the leadership qualities of an organisation. It is about the dynamic, interactive influencing process in which team members lead each other towards achieving agreed objectives.
Of course, this brings challenges, which in turn can be found in every layer of the organisation.
For those management board and (senior) leaders, it means that they should be humble and not make their (individual) role too big. Giving up control and instead trusting others, that sounds simpler than it will be in many organisations will be.
Moreover, employees need to be ready to take ownership from the trust they are given and show leadership in the steps they take towards the shared goals. This too may require a change in attitude in quite a few cases.
What is immediately clear: bringing shared leadership into an organisation is not obvious. It requires change in both structure and culture. It requires a complementary view of people development. Leadership development is much more a process of identity development than of learning methodologies and skills. Leadership is not taken up from your job, but from your identity. Karen Wouters calls leadership a process of 'claiming' and 'granting': what does my context need, and what can and may I bring into it?
Or as Karen Wouters put it earlier during an interview for HR Square : "Only when you have a good view of what leadership is, what your role is, can you ask the question about the skills you need. But the front piece is often missing and then your skills don't get you much. That is the leadership mindset: you need to understand what claim you can make within the context."