Most leadership development efforts only focus on formal leaders, or persons being groomed for leadership. However, followers also need to be included in leadership development efforts to prepare them for responsible self-leadership and to effectively practice shared leadership, especially in team-based knowledge work.
To prepare for the leadership challenges of tomorrow, we need to abandon some popular myths regarding the meaning of leadership today. This mythology centers on the romantic conception of top-down “heroic leadership.” Many people are drawn to the image of a larger-than-life, charismatic, all-knowing, heroic leader who can inspire and single-handedly transform work systems and the people who work in them. This image is an oversimplification of leadership.
Self Leadership And Shared Leadership
Self-leadership and shared leadership are at the heart of the new leadership forms needed to meet our challenges.
- Self-leadership. People are capable of leading themselves. Self-leadership goes beyond participation and empowerment. Self-leadership does involve self-management of behavior to meet existing standards and objectives, but it also includes evaluating the standards and setting or changing them. It looks at what should be done and why it should be done in addition to how to do it. And it includes internal motivation, self management of thoughts, and developing various specific self-leadership skills, including self-observation, self-goal-setting, self-reward, rehearsal, self-job redesign, self-management of internal dialogues, and mental imagery. Such self-leadership strategies hold promise for meeting the empowerment challenges posed for members in teambased knowledge work systems.
- Shared Leadership. Shared leadership occurs when all members are fully engaged in the leadership of the team. It includes ongoing and mutual leadership from both official and unofficial leaders. It is a key characteristic of empowerment in teams, providing more robust leadership than simple reliance on top leadership. This is particularly important in knowledge work, since a formal leader is often at a significant knowledge disadvantage relative to many team members on many important issues for the team.
Here are five ways you can unleash self and shared leadership to leverage the abilities of knowledge workers:
- Avoid authoritarian control, of knowledge workers. Empower everyone.
- Don’t rely too much on any one individual in knowledge creation. Encourage everyone to be involved.
- Avoid the ego trap of wanting to be the top-down heroic leader. Encourage others to step forward as leaders when they have the key skills and knowledge.
- Avoid hoarding power and influence. Provide the training and resources that enable others to step up to the plate.
- Don’t always offer your opinion first. Ask the four most important words in management, “What do you think?”
Shared leadership is a better predictor of team success and team performance than the leadership of a formally designated leader.