Shared Leadership

Shared Leadership: Together we can

six people working together

Shared leadership applies across different disciplines which share a common purpose. The first dimension of Leadership3 defines leadership’s critical purpose. The second dimension considers the organisation’s capacity to achieve its purpose and the capabilities of its people to deliver the product or service. The third dimension defines a collective leadership style. The style ranges from individual to distributed and ultimately shared leadership. The skills underpinning the leadership style are critical to achieving the institutional core purpose and values in equal measure to building institutional capacity through systems and structures.

Leadership styles range from individual to distributed and, ultimately, shared leadership. Individual leadership will often overshadow the collective. However, this should not put us off. The challenge is integrating how we lead towards shared values and goals and delivering public value. Not easy, but certainly possible. Take a look at this interactive infographic.

The activity illustrates how shared leadership emerges from all levels within and across networks, whether with partner organisations, community members, or clients. Leadership is practised in different directions, from top to bottom, reverse, and across disciplines.

Collective leadership is complex. It consists of multiple challenges and contexts, several layers of leadership, multiple stakeholders, and many potential outcomes. The impact of collective leadership will determine the outcome patterns. Given that an overabundance of outcome measures is likely to emerge, it is essential to define an outcome framework to help us assess collective leadership’s impact. Measures should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based.

We often read about ‘what leadership is ‘, ‘where leaders practice and ‘who leads’, but why is the ‘how?’ question of leadership so often neglected? Just as important is why is the ‘why?’ question equally ignored? The sharing of experiences, knowledge and resources can resolve these asymmetries. Such sharing is the essence of intelligent leadership in aligning values and vision to practice. It is also about reimagining, rethinking and reinventing our leadership. Only when we have journeyed through these three initial stages can we then embark on the second half in renewing (values), reforming (leadership) and reviewing (its impact). Then, the journey starts again, as we never find a perfect leadership outcome!

Behind every collective is a range of individuals. We all think and act differently. We all have our values, and often, these values will compete for priority among groups. ‘Sharing’ of leadership is fundamental alongside a commitment to tackle competing goals. Conflict will emerge, and difficult conversations will follow, Fear not; conflict can be positive and often raise the discussion to new levels. Goal-directed negotiation is critical in securing collective outcomes through shared and distributed leadership. Everything that we do within our place of work is about people. As humans, communication is our modus operandi (MO). As intelligent humans, negotiation is our lever.  Essential negotiation skills help us in ‘getting to “yes”‘,  but by creating value rather than claiming value.

Effective network building is an essential feature of collective leadership. Networking requires focusing on shared (horizontal) and distributed (vertical) leadership. A matrix approach combining top-down and bottom-up approaches and cross-cutting networked leadership is needed. Synergy across leadership actions and desired social outcomes are more likely to emerge.

Sharing and distribution of leadership are central to the whole system transformation. All features must embrace change with implementation at all levels to influence the entire system’s transformation. A top-down approach will fail as vision and reality become misaligned. Conversely, a bottom-up approach is unlikely to achieve the desired outcome, with the potential for different parts of the system to follow divergent and conflicting tracks.

The phrase highlighted in our title was ‘borrowed with pride’ by Stephen Brookes when he spent a week working alongside the Chicago Police Department and the Mayors office in the mid-1990s to explore their approach to community policing.  Implemented in 1993, Chicagos Alternative Police Strategy (CAPS) was a highly innovative programme which brought together the police, the community, and other City agencies together to identify and solve neighborhood crime problem. This was rather than simply reacting to their symptoms after the fact. Problem solving at the neighborhood level is supported by a variety of strategies, including neighborhood-based beat officers; regular Beat Community Meetings involving police and residents; extensive training for both police and community; more efficient use of City services that impact crime; and new technology to help police and residents target crime hot spots. Stephen Brookes followed these principles in setting up his community based model of policing in East Leicestershire, UK,



Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Curabitur pellentesque neque eget diam posuere porta. Quisque ut nulla at nunc vehicula lacinia. Proin adipiscing porta tellus, ut feugiat nibh adipiscing sit amet. In eu justo a felis faucibus ornare vel id metus. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; In eu libero ligula. Fusce eget metus lorem, ac viverra leo. Nullam convallis, arcu vel pellentesque sodales, nisi est varius diam, ac ultrices sem ante quis sem. Proin ultricies volutpat sapien, nec scelerisque ligula mollis lobortis.”Together we Can” was used by Chicago Police for this project. A later prominent Chicago politician made a similar phrase famous when he successfully campaigned to become the **th President of the USA.


below became an accepted strapline for a community policing made famous by Barak Obama comes to mind here:

Together we can!

In conclusion, your leadership development is a shared journey. You are part of your journey, but we travel together. The first step is to “Know thyself”; by knowing yourself, you may learn to use knowledge advances to benefit the collective and increase your insights into knowing others.


The Selfless Leader