Friday, 18 September 2015

So what's this Shared Leadership then?

So, shared leadership. Pearce & Conger define is as a “dynamic, interactive influence process amongst individuals in groups for which the objective is to lead one another to the achievement of group or organisational goals or both” (2003, p. 1).

Allen, Morton and Li define it as the co-creation of an environment by a group of individuals, organizations, and communities with the intent to accomplish a common vision and collaborative goals” (2003, p. 4).

My personal take is a mash up of those definitions: "A dynamic, interactive influence group leadership process that achieves a common group vision and collaborative group goals". And what that means is a group of people who get together and share out the leadership role amongst themselves: including goal setting, responsibility, authority and getting-on-with-it-ness.

The components of shared leadership were defined by Moxley (2000) as balance of power (ie equal partners); shared purpose; shared responsibility; mutual respect; commitment (through both the hard and the good).

I like Moxley's writing. He says that for the partnership model to work, you need a very egalitarian balance of power, and everyone needs to use their personal power (our own “gifts and skills, our competence and our expertise”) to co-create win:win outcomes.

By the same token, no one in the group can use coercive or position power, else they will undermine the whole model. Everyone in the group has to be truly equal partners, and work hard at empowering each other. Creating a real balance of power is probably absolutely the hardest piece of putting together the shared leadership puzzle (Moxley, 2000, p. 96; Ferkins, 2007).

Every member of the leadership group has to believe in act on and follow the group's shared purpose. Individual’s have to suck up their differences for the good of the group. Shared leadership has room for different tactics, debate and working through conflict, but the purpose remains the same. The partners honour the opinions of all, but the shared commitment to the group’s intended outcome is always clearly in view and being aimed for by all (Moxley, 2000).

Responsibility and accountability for partnership work is also essential. This cannot be an “us and them” model; “it can only be us. There is no waiting for someone else to act” (Moxley, 2000, p. 76). Interestingly, Moxley also suggests that shared leadership needs to separate authority and accountability, regardless of position, so that every role in the organisation is where the ‘buck stops’ (Moxley, 2000).

Moxley also specifies deep respect for the” inherent worth and value” people as an essential element of shared leadership (2000, p. 76); embracing diversity, and assuming that all participants bring unique gifts, skills and energies. Respect also requires dignity, respect and truly valuing each individual.

Moxley’s final requirement is partnering in the nitty-gritty, with all participants work together, interdependently, to make sense of demanding, complex, real and concrete problems. Sharing in the tough times when change is mission-critical can be easier than creating shared outcomes when life is easy, where egos and agendas bloom. With a shared leadership model, no one will save you but yourself; there is no manager who will decide and tell the team what to do (2000).

When Moxley’s requirements are met, relationships transform into a partnership, inspiring a feel and tone of increased vitality and energy; even spirituality (2000).

And if you think this lot is easy to achieve, you aren't taking account of human greed! But if you can get this to work, this is a very powerful leadership style indeed.


  • Allen, Beverlyn Lundy, Morton, Lois Wright & Li, Tianyu (2003). Shared Leadership. USA: Iowa State University. Retrieved 19 January 2009 from
  • Ferkins, Lesley (2007). Sport Governance: Developing strategic capability in national sport organisations. Australia: Deakin University, unpublished doctoral dissertation
  • Moxley, Russell S. (2000). Leadership and Spirit. USA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Pearce, Craig L., & Conger, Jay A. (2003). All those years ago: The historical underpinnings of shared leadership. In C. L. Pearce, & J. A. Conger (Eds.), Shared leadership: Reframing the hows and whys of leadership. USA: Sage (pp. 1−18)

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