The 4 things you need to make shared leadership work - new research

How to make shared leadership work: The 4 conditions needed – new research

Shared Leadership: How to make it work

Shared leadership is increasingly being used in more and more sectors. Broadly speaking, shared leadership is where the team is jointly responsible for a task and no one person is responsible for the successes or failures of the team. In other words, it is where leadership is broadly distributed, such that people within a team and organisation lead each other.

Research into shared leadership has now shown that there are four components that help with the formation of shared leadership:

  1. The internal team environment
  2. Task cohesion
  3. Shared leadership principles
  4. Task satisfaction

Be impressively well-informed

Get your FREE organizational and people development research briefings, infographics, video research briefings, a free copy of The Oxford Review and more...

Powered by ConvertKit

1. Internal team environment

Previous research has revealed that shared leadership is enabled by an overall team environment comprised of

  1. Shared purpose
  2. Social support, and
  3. Voice

This internal team environment fosters team members’ willingness to offer leadership influence as well as relying on the leadership of other team members.

Shared Purpose

Shared purpose is where team members have similar understandings of their main team objectives and focus on the accomplishment of the collective goals.

Social support

Social support is where the team dynamic allows people to give each other support within the team, perhaps helping one another out as the task gets particularly difficult.


Voice is defined as the level of internal communication throughout the task. Voice is a feeling that you can speak up when you need to and that challenge is valued.

2. Task cohesion

A team doesn’t have to gel well to get a job done. Everyone has probably been in situations in their work life where they wouldn’t go to the pub with someone but they would ‘sail through the Gates of Hell’ with them as they were considered to be good at their job. Task cohesion is a group’s shared attraction and commitment to the group goal. A significant number of studies suggest task cohesion is more closely related to work performance than interpersonal cohesion.

3. Shared leadership principles

Shared leadership is about the team conducting themselves with no one person being tasked with coordinating and leading it. Everyone takes their responsibility for their element of the task and jointly for the task as a whole.

Another study defined shared leadership as ‘a dynamic, interactive influence process among individuals in groups for which the objective is to lead one another to the achievement of group or organisational goals or both’. It is, in essence, the collaboration of professionals each taking responsibility.

4. Task satisfaction

Task satisfaction is essentially the group’s perception of the completion of the task in much the same way as individuals perceive their jobs through job satisfaction. Task satisfaction is a group-level counterpart of individual job satisfaction and previous studies have defined it ‘as a group’s shared attitude toward both its task and the associated work environment.’

The paper, published in The Leadership Quarterly, found that when dealing with creative tasks the internal team environment and task cohesion predicts and tends to lead to shared leadership which, in turn, determines task satisfaction.


Reference – available to members

Be impressively well informed

Get the very latest research intelligence briefings, video research briefings, infographics and more sent direct to you as they are published

Be the most impressively well-informed and up-to-date person around...

Powered by ConvertKit
Like what you see? Help us spread the word

David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page

  • Sue Baggshot says:

    Ah that is really useful. Thanks. I just signed up for the research updates yesterday as well. Some really useful research updates in there. Thanks for those too! Keep up the work I think what you are doing is really important. Sue B

  • Richard Jaques says:

    Thank you David. We have been struggling with this with a couple of our project groups. These four elements make great sense. I think we need to change a few things on Monday!

  • >