The importance of shared leadership

Why invest in leadership?
"On every team there is a core group who sets the tone for everyone else. If the tone is positive, you have half the battle won. If it is negative, you are beaten before you even walk out on the field."

Chuck Noll, the only American football coach who coached his team to 4 Super Bowl victories

Listen here to the full presentation by Prof. Katrien Fransen on this topic.

When we speak about "leadership", we tend to spontaneously think about the leadership of the formal leader; the CEO or team manager within an organisation or the coach within a sport team. The leadership of other key figures in the team is thereby often underestimated. By actively taking up leadership responsibilities, team members can play an important role in optimising the team's functioning.

Recent analyses show that within organisations, you find talented informal leaders at all levels of whom the leadership potential is often unutilised. Also within sport teams, leadership talent is often not optimally harnessed. Although one often looks at the team captain for leadership, research shows that in the majority of the teams rather other players than the captain take the lead, both on and off the field. When team members with leadership talent are not formally appointed in their leadership role, it is likely that they will not maximally use their leadership potential (e.g., out of fear of being criticised by team members or by their formal leader).

Shared leadership and releasing control sometimes feel as a leap of faith. However, sharing responsibilities appears to entail a variety of benefits. Research revealed that identifying, recognising, appointing, and developing the leaders within the team has a significant impact on team members' motivation and their confidence in their team's abilities, as well as on the team's cohesion. Furthermore, teams who engage in shared leadership practices also appear to perform better than teams who still adopt the hierarchical top-down model. Moreover, high-quality leaders within the team inspire a higher engagement and commitment among the team members, which enhances their health and well-being and constitutes an important buffer against burnout

The evidenced impact of the informal leaders on the team's functioning necessitates us to move away from the traditional approach of hierarchical leadership and embrace the idea of shared leadership.

Leaders become great not because of their power but because of their ability to empower others.

John C. Maxwell, bestselling author and speaker on organisational leadership

Shared leadership does not involve that the formal leader becomes redundant. In contrast, both the formal leader and the leaders within the team are essential here and complement each other. The manager or coach are the key drivers to implement a structure of shared leadership in the first place and fulfil an important task in supporting and guiding the appointed leaders within the team. Did you know that research has shown that leaders who opt for shared leadership are perceived by their team members as better leaders than leaders directing from a hierarchical position? It should therefore come as no surprise that more and more teams are choosing for shared leadership. Let this be a motivation to start this transition process.

We would like to take up this challenge together and support you in the process of implementing a structure of shared leadership in your team. Be inspired by our assessments and programs for sport teams and organisations, which each rely on a strong base of scientific evidence.