Shared leadership is the leadership style best adapted to work under highly uncertain and pressured environments. In the simplest possible terms, this means that the leader’s role in a group is automatically taken from and given to the person whose soft and hard skills make him or her mostly suited to provide guidance to the whole group in a given instance.
In this sense, then leadership is effectively shared by the whole group, as the role of the leader is continuously passed around to different team members depending on what the environmental conditions require at any moment.
Shared leadership in practice
Shared leadership is a very advanced leadership style, and one whose effectiveness and success heavily depend on how good a team’s communication and interaction skills are and on how much reciprocal trust and support each team member is able and willing to give others.
In simple terms, shared leadership will only work if everyone in a team is:
- able to observe and objectively perceive in detail the current environment and conditions;
- capable of understanding whether his or her own skills are more adapted than others’ to take on the leadership role
- willing to give someone else the role of the leader because the person is the right choice at the moment
- able to communicate and build on other’s ideas at a very high level.
A team operating in shared leadership is essentially a self-organizing team, which is also the best organizational setting to tackle situations of organizational improvisation. Organizational improvisation indicates your organizational setting in moments of very high pressure and uncertainty, where time is such a scarce resource that planning is eliminated from the work process and is integrated into acting – in simple terms: what you decide to do becomes your plan. Shared leadership is tightly linked to both organizational improvisation and self-organizing teams.