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Mayes Wilson & Associates

10 things you need to know about shared leadership

Sara Wilson, CPCC, ACC |shared leadership

I’ve been thinking a lot about shared leadership lately. I’ve been coaching a team within a large nonprofit that wants to improve their communication and model excellent communication skills for other staff in the organization. I am impressed with the behaviors of the team members, including the team leader, related to shared leadership.

My recent blogs and coaching questions have addressed this topic. I have several clients that model shared leadership among team members, as well as between the board chair and executive director. I also see situations where leadership is a “command and control” approach. Hint: That’s not shared leadership!

I love this quote by Mary Parker Follett who was an early 20th-century thinker on management and shared leadership. In 1924 she wrote: “Leadership is not defined by the exercise of power but by the capacity to increase the sense of power among those led. The most essential work of the leader is to create more leaders.”


Marshall Goldsmith, who teaches executive education at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, says shared leadership “involves maximizing all of the human resources in an organization by empowering individuals and giving them an opportunity to take leadership positions in their areas of expertise.” Think of all the benefits that approach could provide your team and your organization.


  1. Better outcomes. It is rare that leaders have all the skills and knowledge to make every decision; shared leadership leverages the knowledge of the team.
  2. Supports people changing from critics to change agents and collaborators who build on team member ideas.
  3. Competitive advantage for the organization because of its ability to respond quickly and adapt to changes.
  4. Reduced stress levels for key leaders as a shared leadership system does not unduly burden any single leader
  5. Individuals can utilize their individual strengths and organizations can benefit from diversity of thought in decision making.


Creating a shared leadership model isn’t easy; it requires intentionality, discussion and a commitment to the “greater good” rather than star status or indispensability of any one individual. Here are five questions to help you find out if you’re modeling shared leadership.

  1. What is your initial response to the question “are you sharing leadership?” Your initial response is probably accurate.
  2. List 3-5 ways you demonstrate shared leadership.
  3. How are organizational goals and individual goals established?
  4. How are decisions made?
  5. Where is the power in the organization – is it distributed or held by one/two individuals?

Curious about how you can create a shared leadership approach for your team? Call me for a complimentary consultation.

Next week I will share 5 tips for creating shared leadership.

Northouse, P. G. 2016. Leadership Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Pearce, 2007. Shared leadership theory. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Miles & Watkins, 2007. The Leadership Team: complementary strengths or conflicting agendas? Harvard Business Review.

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