The Inevitability of Shared Leadership

November 19, 2013 — 3 Comments

In today’s new rules of work, getting meaningful work done is no longer place-centric or position-centric, but people-centric.

The use of social media, not just for play, but as a primary platform for work-related interaction, has accelerated the shift from top-down hierarchies to flatter networks. Every organization has informal networks — back channels  — that allow people to get what they need, when they need it. Mobile devices and social media have turned these obscure jungle trails into relational super highways.

This shift affects how you, as a leader, must perceive your role as an influencer.

Old and New Lship Paradigm

Leadership is influence. Most of us were trained in a more traditional leadership model emphasizing the leader’s role as direction setter, change agent, spokesperson, problem-solver, strategy-formulator, vision caster, and aligner. Taken at face value, the net result of these roles and responsibilities will produce a leadership bench full of one-way communicators who are always selling and not necessarily listening.

In the new leadership paradigm, each of us operates as a node in a network. We consume information, advice, counsel, and make decisions based on multiple interactions with other people, not just our boss. Who’s the leader? The one who can offer relevant help, initiate needed change, and model the way ahead. Shared leadership becomes organic in this environment; it is inevitable.

Think about this from your own point of view. Where do you go for advice? I find myself searching Google, Twitter, or asking friends far more than I text or ring my boss.

One implication for me as a team leader is that I must be clearer than ever with my team about who our primary audience is and what our desired outcomes are. When our mission is clear, informal networks strengthen our ability to get the work done rather than threaten my authority as a team leader. It’s time to embrace the inevitability of shared leadership.

How are you experiencing the inevitability of shared leadership?


3 responses to The Inevitability of Shared Leadership

  1. Ken,
    You are hitting this topic right on the head. Add the global side to this that you work on and bam, this is mind blowing!

    • You’re right, Mark. It is mind blowing. That’s why I’m publishing a book on this next month :-). I hope to help leaders save a few years on a very steep learning curve. Thanks.

  2. Great post, Ken. It IS inevitable, and woe to the organization that fails to embrace it! Thanks for sharing!

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