The Most Surprising Thing about Shared Leadership

The most surprising thing about shared leadership is that most of us are practicing it to some extent all the time.

If you regularly discuss upcoming plans with people who will be affected by them, you are sharing leadership.

If you’re willing to act on unsolicited advice from someone in your company who isn’t your boss, you are sharing leadership.

If you delegate responsibility and authority to someone and then fully support their course of action, you are sharing leadership.

If you allow your teenager to experience the consequences of his or her own choices and thus become a responsible adult, you are sharing leadership.

If you listen to that same teenager’s advice on how your behavior pushes family members away, and then change your behavior, you are sharing leadership.

If you can draw the best ideas out of others on your team then follow their lead, you are sharing leadership.

If you can give and receive leadership — if you can lead and follow — within the same group of people, you are sharing leadership.

If you’re not leading in this way you probably aren’t in the running for company president, head pastor, school principal, CEO or parent of the year. If you’re not leading in this way your people may find you overbearing, high-control and paternalistic. A recent post highlighted research among 80 top leaders, many of whom initially chafed at the idea of shared leadership. As it turned out, when asked, “How do you want to be led?” nearly everyone expressed that they expected leaders above them to share leadership.

What are other ways you observe shared leadership?

By Ken

Dr. Ken Cochrum (DMin, Bethel University) is Vice President of Global Digital Strategies at Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) in Orlando, Florida. An avid cyclist and aspiring guitarist, he also holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Texas and a Masters of Arts in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. He recently co-founded, a movement passionate about connecting people to Jesus using digital strategies. He previously served as vice president of Cru’s student-led movements worldwide. He and his wife Ann spent 13 years in East Asia where they raised their two children. Ken blogs regularly at

8 replies on “The Most Surprising Thing about Shared Leadership”

KC — this was a brilliantly tangible working out of the concept. Thanks for putting more flesh on the bone and for normalizing shared leadership. Really love your original content these last couple posts.

I love this, Ken. You’re right, of course, effectively sharing leadership is not only the best way to value the people you connect with, but it’s actually the most effective way to get the job done well. Thanks for your clear outline….we should all paste it on our walls!

Thanks Mike. My wife says that my next post ought to be about what shared leadership is not. Thoughts?

Love the post, Thanks
Here are some more I am thinking of, when shared leadership emerges in a team.

If teammates discuss intuitions in a formal meeting, leadership is shared
If teammates get together for no specific reason and start brainstorming, leadership is shared
If a team leader is ok to rediscuss shared purpose, leadership is shared and searched.
If a meeting is concluded and summed up by a team member and not the team leader, leadership is shared.
If the team leader ask a team member to start a meeting, leadership is shared.

If I understand your question correctly, it seems that some people naturally value shared leadership behaviors more than others, thus their natural personal style may find sharing leadership easier to do. However, sharing leadership can be learned and practiced by almost anyone.

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