Leadership will be shared ... or there won't be any leadership

Leiderschap zal gedeeld zijn ... of zal niet zijn
Self Management

An innovative labour organisation (ILO) strives for excellence by deploying committed workers in self-managing teams. The teams are initiated by a visionary management which shares leadership as much as possible by means of organisational design and in its own attitude and behaviour.

Organisational design

Structurally shared leadership means that the organisation is flattened out. The organisation is characterised by processes rather than departments. It is, for instance, the value chain which shapes a production company. Lines of communication and decision follow the core processes and are designed in such a way that the lines are short and flexible.

An example: tiered accountability. Companies organise standardised tiered accountability consultation structures (Tiers 1, 2, and 3), depending on the time frame and the delegated powers for the process components. This means that decisions are made and implemented at the right levels and within the shortest possible time span.

Leadership behaviour

ILO requires at least an update in the role of the leader. In traditional organisations, we see the image of the leader/manager who acts as a precursor, source of inspiration, designer, central contact person, and guide.

ILO presents a new image:

  • The ILO leader as a challenger, change agent, coach, and distributor of power (empowerment agent), who confers responsibilities on workers and teams. The contact points are decentralised.
  • The ILO leader guides other leaders.
  • The ILO leader creates a basis for change; he or she shares the leadership.

Leadership is a team affair which clearly reflects the individual choice to accept joint ownership. Shared leadership means that the worker opts for responsibility, purpose, and impact.

Coaching towards distributive leadership

Empowerment links the controlling power range (the ability to make decisions) to the line options (the power to make decisions) and the goals (purposes). Among other things, the role of the ILO leader consists of:

  • Continuing to clarify the joint goal; that helps workers to stay on the right track in making decisions. Objectives can be demanding and challenging.
  • Continuing to monitor (with key performance indicators - KPIs) without lapsing into micromanagement.  
  • Allowing and sustaining differences.
  • Showing authentic and ethical leadership.

The ILO leader is personally visible and committed. You can’t feign shared leadership. If sharing leadership doesn’t fit in with the leader’s own values, there won’t be any leadership. 


Leadership is the ability to mobilise the various talents within a group or organisation in order to achieve ambitious, but real results. Effective leadership can be developed by providing the right tools to analyse current leadership strengths and by giving support and coaching.
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