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Shared Leadership

By Voss W. Graham

If you look at the most successful teams in any sport, you will find a common bond within the team. Sometimes, it is called chemistry – as if just the right mix of chemicals has created a special new formula. Other times, it is postulated that there was strong leadership provided by key players and everyone else responded favorably to their lead or “charisma.”

There is merit to the leadership issue – with one notable exception. If a team begins to heavily rely upon their selected or anointed leader – they become dependent upon the leader for their overall performance. While great leaders are necessary and very helpful to raising performance standards – true leadership for high performance teams is shared leadership.

When a team has “a” leader, the team becomes dependent upon the leader for their confidence and most importantly – their “will” to win!  This is fine as long as the leader is focused, injury-free and having a good game. However, if the leader is unprepared, loses self-confidence or is just having a bad day – the team usually suffers and can even lose – even when they have more talent.

This is the point of shared leadership – interdependence!  At the pinnacle of long term team success is the principle of shared leadership. Every member of the team is taking ownership and responsibility for the overall performance of the group. No one panics or becomes negative at the first sign of adversity. In fact, teams with shared leadership strengthen their resolve and focus at the first sign of adversity and unite as one. They support each other and take care of their own responsibilities to insure the success of the team. Excellent teams know that each person has an assigned duty or role for each play. Personal pride can override fear and indecision, while moving each individual within the team to carry out the assigned duty.

In business, shared leadership principles can take a group of individuals to a higher level of performance and productivity. Here are six fundamental elements for shared leadership to flourish in the business team environment:

1. Respect for each individual is the foundation of effectiveness in team performance. This is the underwritten rule that gets the credit for excellence in team-based performance. The key point is the understanding that each person on the team brings uniqueness to the group. This uniqueness is then honored thus creating a binding unity of the group. When this is present within a team, there is a willingness to commit to a purpose larger than self. Thus, the whole group moves to the next level of performance.

2. Trust in each other is a factor that is unique to human beings. It is based upon feelings regarding the abilities and integrity of individuals. Trust is the invisible bond that allows our expectations and standard to rise to higher levels. When present, trust connects each individual at an emotional level. It engages each person in the causative factor of higher performance. When there is a lack of trust in a team, factors such as fear of failure, blame games, low self-esteem and an over reliance upon rules and laws become the norm.

3. A common or shared goal is the trigger mechanism for high performance in changing environments. Goals become the source of positive emotional energy used to drive challenging results, providing meaning and purpose to the team. Groups that “wing it” or have goals just as activities are doomed for underperformance and probable failure. Dynamic teams use the shared leadership principles and a common goal to give each team member a clear understanding of their contribution to results.

4. Personal accountability for results is a major contributor to high performance for individuals and teams. The key point of personal accountability is the focus upon results and outcomes over activities. Many under-performing groups are focused upon doing the activities right even if the activities are of low priorities relative to attaining results. The lack of personal accountability – the act of achieving results and outcomes – is the main reason for under-performance.

5. Effective communication drives results and increasing productivity. The primary factor in making communication effective deals with the choices made by individuals. Since most people send messages – written or spoken – in a method that they would understand, and will end up missing the mark with 50 to 70% of other people. They end up wasting time explaining a communication process. The wise leader makes choices regarding the delivery of messages so that others will understand the first time.

6. Discipline to stay the course is the master key to success for teams and individuals. Discipline is needed by leaders to stay on track when adversity or difficult times become obstacles in goal attainment. The strong leader will rely upon continual effort to keeping moving forward when times are tough. A lack of discipline is the leading cause of failure in business today. Effort and discipline go together in getting greater results.

The real question for you – does your team share the leadership role or depend upon one or two individuals to provide the energy, passion and discipline for the winner’s edge? What can you do to get the six elements engaged in your organization?

Read other articles and learn more about Voss Graham.

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