Archives For shared leadership

The One Thing Leaders Want

February 26, 2014 — 2 Comments

Leaders want dialog.

You want the ability to discuss, debate, shape and influence a decision before it is made.

The people you lead — or your teenage daughter, or the committee members at church, or the division heads of your organization — want the same thing with you.

Honest, open dialog facilitates shared leadership. Leaders want to share leadership.

This fascinated me, as when our organization restructured recently, one of the five principles guiding our efforts was “shared leadership.” Many leaders initially resisted this, claiming that the essence of leadership—at least in their culture—was having someone in charge to make the final decisions. Yet people don’t want to be led that way. They want to voice their opinions. They want to help shape overall direction. They long for the dynamic interaction among leader-followers that characterizes high performance teams. They want to be engaged in issues and decisions that they will ultimately own. They long to share leadership.

Leaders want dialog.

Read more on this topic in my book CLOSE: Leading Well Across Distance and Cultures.


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?


Need Clarity?

April 18, 2013 — 5 Comments

How clear is your team on its purpose? Can everyone clearly name the audience(s) you seek to serve? What are the most important results that you must deliver? How clear are you, as a team?

You might be surprised.

It’s one thing to have everyone repeat a vision statement. It’s another when an outsider drops in and asks some clarity questions: What exactly is your team trying to accomplish? For whom? How will you know if you’re successful?

This week the digital strategies team I lead had two different experts drop in for one-hour chat sessions; Mike on Tuesday, Steve on Wednesday. Both are friends of the ministry and leaders of their own companies. Without prompting from me, both of them asked the clarity questions. Both days generated some great discussion. Our team is less than a year old. We do have two primary audiences that we seek to serve, which creates some tension and confusion when allocating scarce time and resources. We’re also in startup phase in the digital environment, so our work involves many new projects, rapid failure/learning cycles, and a lot of iteration. Our larger organization is over 60 years old, continues to maintain a lot of aging initiatives and projects, and has a much longer iteration/change cycle. So, as Steve put it, we’re like a startup company with a tiny office on one deck of the Queen Elizabeth II.

As team leader, I felt tempted to brush off Mike’s and Steve’s penetrating questions with some trite, canned responses. But that wouldn’t help us fulfill our purpose. I needed to share leadership for the session with outsiders and allow them to exert influence (= leadership) on us. Lesson for me: Don’t fear being humbled and helped by friends who come with fresh perspective on our team processes and products. More clarity helps everyone be more fruitful.

How clear is your team on its purpose, audience(s) and outcomes? Are you sure about that?