“Collective leadership is what happens when several capable people with complementary strengths and competencies, sharing common high values and character, and centred around a compelling purpose and vision, combine to provide direction among a company of people and contribute to their success” – Rob Wilson

To operate in the current career landscape organisations, need to adopt new strategies to respond in an agile and effective manner. Changing organisational strategies, structures, and processes are not enough to be successful. Human beings are the key to make things happen and organisational culture should support and enhance these new strategies and leadership practices. Meaning that everyone has to take full responsibility for the success of the team and or organisation, and not just for their own jobs.

Collective leadership and the success of the team depends on the leadership within the entire team rather than just one person’s skills. This is what makes collective leadership different from other leadership styles. It focusses on the capacities, relationships, behaviours, and practices of the entire group. Traditionally the top-players will have sole-responsibility on almost everything. This can lead to these players feeling alone and pressured to always have the right answers. When responsibility is shared, these top-players have access to resourceful people and less pressure to have all the answers. When responsibility is shared, the work can be easier and fun.

However, sharing responsibility is something that does not come naturally. Here are some reasons why we hesitate to share responsibilities:

  • Pride – we want to be able to do it all. For some, sharing responsibilities can sometimes feel like having a weakness – that they cannot do it.
  • It’s mine – ultimately, we feel that our tasks and the outcomes are our responsibility. The only way to get it done the right way is by doing it ourselves.
  • The need for power – for some knowledge is power and if you have the knowledge (the data and the information) of a certain situation you have power in that situation. By sharing responsibilities, you will give some of that perceived power to others.
  • I know best – you have been doing this task for a long time. You know the ins and the outs. You are the expert, and you know best.
  • Being too busy – this is a socially accepted excuse for many things, including sharing responsibilities. You argue that it will take me longer to share and show you how it is done rather than you just doing it yourself.

Getting past these barriers and sharing it anyway

Let go of the ‘how’. When we do share responsibilities, we want others to do it exactly like we would have done it. Holding others to this standard can be a good reason for you to just do it yourself because they are not doing it ‘right’. Rather help others understand the bigger picture than explaining how it should be done. Let them know ‘what’ needs to be accomplished and ‘why’ it is important and let them manage the how.

Proving others with training and support will enable them to execute the shared responsibility. You cannot just dump tasks and responsibilities on others. Your role as leader is to provide them with appropriate training, support and encouragement that can enable them to complete it successfully.

Once you share the responsibilities you have to let it go. If you do not, you are micro-managing. You should rather focus on the outcome – are people getting the desired outcome?  However, provide your team with enough space to successfully complete the tasks.

Focus on the bigger picture. Usually, we do not want to share responsibilities because we are caught up with short-term thinking. It is easier if I do it myself, or I will do it better next time. However, sharing responsibilities is important for the long-term and for others. Thinking long-term will help you change your behaviour and help you to share responsibilities with others.


Kevin Eikenberry. (nd). Sharing Responsibility – Why We Don’t Want to And How to Do it Anyway. Retrieved from https://blog.kevineikenberry.com/leadership-supervisory-skills/sharing-responsibility-why-we-dont-want-to-and-how-to-do-it-anyway/

Ross Wilson. (2018). Why Do We Need Collective Leadership? Retrieved from https://growingorganisations.com/collective-leadership-what-why-how/

Linda Hill, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove, & Kent Lineback. (2014). Collective Genius.  Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/06/collective-genius

Herminia Ibarra and Morten Hansen. (2011). Are You a Collective Leader? Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2011/07/are-you-a-collaborative-leader

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