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How Shared Power Leads to More Effective Management

June 19, 2018

By: Crystal Spraggins

How power is obtained, used, misused, and maintained is very much a taboo topic at work.

In its simplest form, power is the ability to get things done, especially through other people. A powerful leader can “mobilize the troops” by employing either formal (positional) power or more informal (personal) power. Great leaders, of course, have both.

Being “power hungry” is perceived as a bad thing.  However, wanting it to either effect needed change or maintain a healthy status quo is just good sense for anyone striving to be a successful leader. Without power, leaders are powerless to drive behavior and outcomes.

And yet, one of the smartest things a leader can do is strategically co-lead. The reason? There are so many! Let’s start with four:

  1. It leads to shared decision making, which leads to better decisions. Shared decision making also lays the foundation for true accountability, whether outcomes are positive or negative. Holding someone accountable for results he or she can’t control is unfair, ineffective, and bound to create friction and resentment.
  2. Co-Leadership increases loyalty and respect, which in turn creates positive relationships with the minimum of conflict. That’s because when a leader empowers employees, they feel trusted and capable.
  3. Without sharing power, succession planning will be a bust! People come and people go, and intelligent employers have a solid plan for replacing their key players whenever the need arises. However, such a plan must ensure that those being groomed for higher responsibilities are given opportunity to learn and grow through the assumption of greater levels of power.
  4. It makes for shared responsibility. When leaders are generous with power, they actually create support groups for themselves. Rather than acting as “lone rangers” these leaders have the benefit leaning on their staff while knowing the job will get done. These leaders are always available to provide guidance when needed, but their investment in their staff’s growth means they can depend on staff to “have the leader’s back” without fail.

By now you may be wondering two things: (1) given the serious pros of shared leadership, why aren’t more leaders sharing? And (2) what happens when a staff member proves to be incapable of responsibly receiving authority?

Why Sharing Is Easier Said Than Done

Sharing power doesn’t come easy for many executives.  It can feel like losing, and that’s scary (although they’d never admit it). Sharing has the potential (so they think) to put them not in control which is an unfortunate but very real interpretation.

Other leaders have the desire to share but lack the skill. They think they’re sharing, but they really aren’t. And so, they remain at the helm of most decisions, even ones that should clearly be in the domain of their subordinates.

When Shared Power Fails

Sometimes, and despite a leader’s best intentions and actions, an employee won’t meet the challenge of using the control they’re given well. However, with the right motivation, encouragement, and rewards a slow starter can be coached into taking initiative, becoming a more critical thinker, and accepting more accountability for outcomes. Employees who can’t be coached may have to be transferred into other, less, senior positions, or transitioned out of the organization.

How can you create a culture that encourages co-leadership?

Like anything else in the corporate world, what’s rewarded will be replicated. Employers who want to encourage power sharing within their organizations should focus on their managers’ abilities to get results via efficient delegation by

Keep in mind that sharing power comes more naturally to some than to others. Fortunately, behavioral assessments tools, like Omnia’s employee selection and retention reports, can help employers determine which potential and current team members are more likely to lead collaboratively. The reports can also be used to coach employees in the direction the company wants them to go.

As technology and globalism create more complicated work, savvy companies will adopt leadership models that depend on shared power, knowing that their highest-performing employees will insist on having autonomy and authority to do their jobs.


Crystal Spraggins

Freelance Writer, Editor, and HR Consultant in Philly. You can find more of Crystal's work at:

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