Shared Leadership Sustains High Performance in Teams


‘The concept of shared leadership offers a way of increasing risk taking, innovation, and commitment that can create an organization that is responsive, flexible, and successful.’

Peter M. Smith, President of consulting firm Peter Smith Associates


The two factors that are often revealed as critical in getting the best work output from a team is good leadership and clarity of the mission. Many organisations accept that there are born leaders and born followers. There is a general perception that in any business unit, business division or team there will be a combination of both types of individuals. While some will grow to positions of leadership, others who haven’t developed these qualities will form a strong base of workers who efficiently execute tasks. There is growing realization that team performance receives an added impetus when all the team members assume a leadership state and rise to their job challenges by undertaking actions that signify leadership. This concept is referred to as personal leadership or shared leadership.

Personal Initiative: Personal leadership or shared team leadership is an attitude that says ‘I want to make a difference, I want to think and find ways and approaches that help take my organisation forward’. It goes beyond executing a team role or thinking of innovative approaches to a problem. It is performance orientation and personal initiative with the focus firmly on the team mission and organisation goals. When individuals display initiative and leadership qualities, it improves performance and will eventually translate into organisation development and growth. One such exponent of personal leadership is Robin Sharma, (Leadership expert and author of the book, ‘The monk who sold his Ferrari’). He said:

‘If every human being took greater responsibility for doing their part to elevate an organisation or community, the world would be a much better place’.


Shared Leadership: The shared leadership concept is different and distinct from the team leadership role or managerial role within organisations. Shared leadership is not a paradigm shift from the traditional leadership structure of teams or units. The team leader’s role continues to be important and relevant but works side by side with the shared and personal leadership qualities of individual team members. The team leader still bears the responsibility and accountability for the project, task or mission of the team, but every member on the team operates in a committed manner to go that extra mile to deliver results. Team members become self-driven and resourceful individuals and this kind of outlook builds and sustains performance.

Intrateam Consultative Approach: The other feature of shared leadership is the consultative and supportive environment that is present within the team. Team members don’t feel the need to constantly check back with their team leader, they communicate with each other and take each other’s views on ideas and initiatives. The peer group serves as a ‘sounding board’, this makes their teamwork and decisions truly collective. This type of team environment is usually the fall out of excellent rapport and cohesion in the team.

Better Empowerment: In teams that are able to adopt shared leadership, the concept of empowerment is a lot more effective. When empowered teams display a high level of individual initiative (within the parameters of empowerment laid out for them), it has a positive influence on all their activities and decisions.

The concept of shared leadership is increasingly being viewed as essential to foster and sustain high team performance. Many authors, academics and researchers who study the phenomenon of teams are writing favourably about this new approach to teamwork and the considerable impact that shared leadership has on team performance.

Shared Leadership: New Ways of Leading, Peter M. Smith
The Wisdom of team
Creating the high performance organisation by Katzenbach and Smith
Strategic Leadership and Decision Making

The Support Structure of Empowered Teams

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