The Next Shift in Collective Leadership

It’s important that we surround ourselves with others that can encourage and inspire us to see things from a different perspective. We’ve heard folks tell us that “It’s lonely at the top.” We’ve had discussions with many leaders who have shared their personal stories of feeling lonely, and that they were the ones who took on the bulk of what happens in our organizations because it seemed as if no one else cared as much as they cared.

But isn’t leadership really more about inspiring others to become a part of the process? Isn’t it more about team-building and getting our organizations and people to work as one collective body? Heck, even pop groups understand that it takes more than one voice or one guitar player to create a whole?

I was recently encouraged by the music group Mumford & Sons in a documentary when they shared:  “We try to always remember that our success lie in the collaboration of each member making the whole one really unique experience. We understand that each of us feeds off of each member and their unique piece of the puzzle and energy. This is what makes us who we are today.”

The collaboration model is nothing new and according to “Next Shift: Beyond the Nonprofit Leadership Crisis,” by the Building Movement Project, younger leaders are not attracted to hierarchical structures and are trying to find new ways to organize and structure work, ranging from entrepreneurial models to shared leadership and broader participatory structures. And more millenials are entering the workforce today than any other era.

Perhaps the time has come that we dissolve the lone hero mentality – the leader who comes just in the “nick of time” to “save the day,” but instead, takes the opportunity to think of themselves as facilitators of a process that engages everyone in our organizations. This can be quite challenging to leaders who are used to doing everything themselves or micromanaging out of fear that no one else can do it “quite like us,” or that they are going to screw everything up -- and we’ll be left to clean up the mess.

Instead, collective leadership empowers employees and teams, and can, in fact, ease our burden.

Figuring out how to adopt this model is not an easy task, but can be a tremendous asset to our cultures and the greater good of our organizations. Distributing leadership and responsibility is a balancing act, knowing when and what each of us needs to communicate to the team without overloading each other.

Collective leadership is the result of a process that brings together diverse communities of people to create change, begins with a shared dream that forms the heart of a group of skilled and passionate individuals, and emerges from our relationship building.

It is amazing what a handful of people can do when everyone’s leadership is tapped and others are allowed to share their insight and ideas. Who doesn’t like to be heard and feel as if they have a voice, especially at work?

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

Add new comment

Please enter the text you see in the image below: