Can shared leadership impact relationships at work?

May 27, 2016 | Posted by admin in Faculty Talk   No Comments »

Shared Leadership arises out of social relationships that value democratic processes. Unlike classical leadership, shared leadership is not identified by hierarchy, but by the quality of the group members’ interactions. The members are interdependent and actively participate in the process of leadership. There is no one particular person who leads in such a group; more than one member may take on the duties and functions of a leader depending on the circumstances.

This type of leadership takes full advantage of the number of people in a group to gain multiple perspectives. The group acts together to accomplish tasks and achieve shared goals by selecting solutions that the majority agrees upon. Working closely and making decisions together, they get to know one another well. Each plays the role of a good leader by leveraging the strengths and improving on the weaknesses of their team members.

“Leadership is inclusive and effortlessly transfers within a team following the shared leadership model,” says Dr. Uday Salunkhe, Group Director of Prin. L.N. Welingkar Institute of Management Research and Development (WeSchool). Different members may assume leadership behaviour at some point or the other and be followed or looked to for guidance by others. Where one person may be better suited to influence a situation, another may possess the apt expertise to restructure a different situation.

Most organizations are drawn to the shared leadership approach because of its effectiveness. Members of such a team in an organization create an inspiring environment and provide emotional and psychological support to each other. The culture of collaboration and the sense of community, build trust and nurture inter-group relationships. The resulting interdependence can positively affect the group dynamics at work and enhance organizational performance.

However, in a case where motivation is low, shared leadership practices can prove destructive and foster negative emotions within a team. Since the individual contribution is likely to get overlooked and unrewarded, shared leadership may breed resentment, leading to increased conflict and decreased productivity. Moreover, shared leadership is likely to produce poor results where relationships are valued over efficiency. In such a team, members may forgo the authority to hold each other accountable for their performance in order to avoid conflict. As a result, another relationship to change in a workplace may be the one across boundaries, between teams. Though it may strengthen relationships within a team, shared leadership can create confusion and conflict in the levels below due to the tendency to avoid and export unpleasant conversations. Furthermore, relationships may suffer if the concept of shared leadership is misunderstood to mean that a member can lead when they want to, without taking into account specific skills or expertise required for tasks.

Dr. Salunkhe notes, “Leadership behaviour isn’t hard to evoke in teams because leading feels empowering. The interesting thing to note, however, is that being a follower to someone else’s idea is a lot more difficult once you know that you too can lead. That’s the true test of shared leadership. By displaying the willingness to follow, the members become leaders in their own right. At WeSchool, we groom Welingkarites to become innovative leaders who can work harmoniously and collaborate in groups.”


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