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Coherent Shared Leadership


Adaptive organizations do not come about by accident.  They are the result of thousands of coherent choices.  This requires clarity of purpose, ingenuity of strategy, careful design of work process, insightful selection of people, and attention to the development of people, teams, and systems.


Perhaps the biggest challenge is to find a way to communicate effectively enough to generate the “group mind” that is required to be able to “think together”; to develop strategy, plan, solve problems and make decisions together in an efficient way.  There are very different kinds of issues that must be taken up, usually by people who think in very different ways. 


It does not work, however for a few strategic people to work out the strategy in an executive meeting room.  Strategy is only useful if it can be executed, which requires that strategy development be informed by the people who are closest to the customer, the operation and the environment, and involve those who must implement the strategy so they understand it, and own it.


Perhaps the greatest challenge of shared leadership is to create the conditions that are required to think together.  One of the most essential enablers for shared, coherent leadership is effective meetings. You could say that meetings are how an organization thinks together, but unfortunately, the way many meetings are conducted produces painful organizational headaches, and unconsciousness.  People check out. 


The pursuit of shared leadership runs counter to some very basic tendencies in human nature.  The most basic of which is the influence of power on the ego.  There are studies that have shown that there is an inverse relationship between power distance and empathy.  Somehow power inflames the ego and makes it want to over-reach.  Give it an inch and it will go for the mile.  So if we want coherent leadership teams, in which the members of the team consistently think, relate and act in a manner that is congruent with the mission and best interests of the organization, we have to learn to master our ego’s; find ways to make the ego our servant, and not our master.  As a shared leadership team evolves, understanding, trust, and respect grow, and make it possible to take greater risks. 


In the world of shared leadership, decision making becomes a far more technical endeavor.  It becomes necessary to become explicit about who has what rights and responsibilities in decision making, and what shared criteria are used to make decisions together. 


It is easier to understand the need for well-structured meetings and disciplined team decision making tools if we consider that, to create an adaptive organization, we must build a “group mind” which is the shared mind space that allows people to think, solve problems, and make decisions together.

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