The Power of Shared Leadership
When and why should leadership be shared?
Bardia Monshi talks on-stage on 23.05.2023 @ the Leadership Horizon about the challenge of Shared Leadership. He is convinced it’s time for WeQ! He gives practical examples of when and why leadership should be shared, especially in times of uncertainty.
Please talk a little bit about WeQ. What does it represent?
WeQ signifies the potential of a group to outsmart a single person’s IQ. Obviously, this is not always the case. Especially big companies tend to organize themselves in a way that weakens the WeQ and sometimes even the IQ of their employees. So, we could say a major goal of leadership is to realize the WeQ of a team.
If we are not able to realize our WeQ, we will get in trouble, because today’s complex problems cannot be solved by single geniuses anymore.
When should leadership be shared? And when not? Can you name a practical example?
First of all, leadership is shared in big companies already. Different departments have different leaders, so it is nothing new. The traditional way of sharing leadership is to define different tasks that are handled by different departments. In consequence, we have different responsibilities. If this way of organizing people fits to the problem a company has to solve, this works perfectly.
Another way of sharing leadership is simply to split time of leadership between two leaders. Now, as the leaders need to communicate more, the leadership team needs to organize themselves more and communicate better. In shift-work, for example, we see this kind of shared leadership on a regular basis. Leader A is leading in different time-slots than leader B.
The fun of shared leadership
But the real fun of shared leadership starts when we don´t know exactly who will be the leader of the action today, because a team shares leadership. Maybe you think this sounds totally chaotic.
But it is the reality of every sports-team, for example every soccer-team. Who will score today? Nobody knows. But the team knows exactly what they want to accomplish, everyone is trained well and hopefully skilled. They come together to find the best ideas to win the match within their performance-zones.
In these conditions leadership is shared and everyone is ready to take the responsibility if the situations require it to do so. This is what a truly agile team looks like. But let me emphasize, you need a problem that fits into this kind of coping-strategy. Otherwise, it is not efficient. But if the problem is very dynamic, then we need to activate our WeQ by shared leadership.
We know, to remain agile in uncertain times, leaders should strive for constant development and growth. How can one benefit from shared leadership in this context?
First of all: If you have to deal with dynamic and complex problems on a daily basis, you have to develop skills and you will have an ever bigger need for good ideas on what to do next. This need for personal development is nourished by the challenges you have to cope with. Otherwise, you will not survive in such an environment.
Shared leadership in its core is exchanging and challenging ideas to make better decisions. The benefit is that you will become better everyday by learning from each other. Last time I talked with a surgeon, he told me: ”You know what, you all don´t want to know how many times we ask our colleagues for ideas, because we don´t know what to do exactly.”
Shared knowledge means less risk for a company in uncertain times, right? Can you elaborate on that and name more benefits for organizations?
To share knowledge indeed means less risk, because if knowledge is concentrated in a few people you always have the risk to lose one of them and with them some crucial knowledge. So for risk-management we need redundancy. Even our body has built redundancy to improve the likelihood of survival. We have two kidneys, two lungs etc.
But honestly, sharing knowledge is only a complicated problem. The complex problem is to share skills. Because to share skills, you have to attract talents and give them time and space to practice. In the end, you will have employees who cannot be replaced easily, because their gained skills stick to their personalities.
But of course, if a company is able to share its inherent knowledge and develop their talents well, success will follow and will be quite stable, even in a dynamic environment.
A big problem nowadays is employee engagement & retention. Can shared leadership help with these pressing labor market issues?
Yes, I think so, because if we face more and more complexity, shared leadership and shared responsibility are the way to go. And you know what, it is great fun to cope with complexity together!
We as humans are born to deal with complexity, and we love the feeling of getting better in doing so. Then we feel the power of teamwork and we outgrow ourselves. This reminds me of a song from Carlos Santana and maybe it is a good reminder for our world of work too: “Let the children play!”
Dr. Bardia Monshi
Expert on Behavioral Psychology, author and CEO of iVip
Since 1999, Bardia has been guiding people and organizations in the development of their mental, social and organizational virtuality. He has worked with CEOs of multinational corporations, executives, employees, world champions in sports and Olympic champions.