Shared Leadership for Scientists

In this short article, we will take a look at the current literature on Shared Leadership.

Shared Leadership Defined

The Shared Leadership approach describes a dynamic and interactive influence process by individuals in teams.The aim of sharing leadership is to reach the team or organizational goal by encouraging team members to lead each other (Pearce & Conger, 2003).


Hence, the crucial difference of this approach compared to traditional approaches of leadership research is the fact that the influence process includes more people than the appointed leader. In the past, the term "leadership" comprised usually a single individual - the supervisor - and his/her relationship with the employees and while traditional research is focused more this (see left side in the illustration), the research on Shared Leadership is focused on the considerably larger area on the right side.

Continuum of Shared Leadership

 Graph: Distribution of leadership, adapted from Offermann & Scuderi in Meindl & Shamir, 2007

To separate Shared Leadership from other similar leadership constructs, several dimensions and unique features of this leadership approach have been discussed in the extant literature. Shared Leadership is a leadership process which is enacted by of those team members who don’t bear formal responsibility for the overall result of teamwork. Accordingly, Shared Leadership is considered as an informal and internal process. This necssitates also the presence of a formal and responsible executive manager and therefore, Shared Leadership and formal or vertical leadership are not mutually exclusive (D'Innocenzo, Mathieu & Kukenberger 2014; Morgeson, DeRue & Karam, 2010).

Dimensions of Shared Leadership

Dimensions of Shared Leadership, adapted from Morgeson et al. 2010

With Shared Leadership, the leadership functions are distributed to several or all individuals in a team or an organization and aren’t located in the hands of one person, thus allowing themembers of the team or organization members to change the leadership roles in an active and goal-oriented way. Thus, the whole group or organization is able to achieve the organization goals in a collective manner. This switching between leader and follower roles distinguishes Shared Leadership from traditional approaches. Therefore, when comparing Shared Leadership to traditional leadership, you’re able to identify a higher density of “leadership connections” as exampflified here.

Shared and vertical, formal, leadership

Left: Formal Leadership with A as the leader. Right: Shared Leadership. Own illustration.

The specific knowledge and the various skills of the individuals in terms of the organization goals are crucial for the successful transfer of the leadership role, as it allows for the person with the highest expertise for any given situation to assume leadership. For this reason, Shared Leadership is particularly suitable for solving complex tasks, which require creativity, innovation and interdependence (Hoch, 2013). Thereby, teams are able to achieve higher team effectiveness and performance (D'Innocenzo et al, 2014; Nicolaides et al, 2014; Wang et al, 2014.). However in reality, we don't expect all team members to participate equally in shared leadership as shown above, but rather a unequal distribution of shared leadership like this:

shared leadership network

A example of a leadership network. Own illustration.

As three recent meta-analysis have shown a strong effect of Shared Leadership on team performance (D'Innocenzo et al., 2014; Nicolaides et al., 2014; Wang et al., 2014), the antecedents or causes of Shared Leadership gain in importance. Why do certain persons participate in leading other other and how can we increase the level of overall participation?


The "Shared Leadership Study" aims to investigate these causes. A first literature review was written by Anika Reiter (2015) in her bachelor thesis "The Antecedents of Shared Leadership" (See below for download). With thanks to and permission of the author we make this work available here. Generally, Mrs. Reiter notes that although there’s already some research about the causes, this research is still in its infancy and should be extended.

The Antecedents of Shared Leadership by Anika Reiter
Reiter 2015 - The Antecedents of Shared
Adobe Acrobat Document 764.9 KB

This article will be expanded as more research becomes available (and of course time allows).


For the time being, I will also accumulate other resources on shared leadership.

Following is a 2010 video with Prof. Paul Tesluk, a researcher who contributed to the field of shared leadership (i.e. Carson & Tesluk, 2007), discussing its nature and the best place to use it.


  • D'Innocenzo, L., Mathieu, J. E., & Kukenberger, M. R. (2014). A meta-analysis of different forms of shared leadership-team performance relations. Journal of Management. doi:10.1177/0149206314525205
  • Hoch, J. E. (2013). Shared leadership and innovation: The role of vertical leadership and employee integrity. Journal of Business and Psychology, 28(2), 159–174. doi:10.1007/s10869-012-9273-6
  • Meindl, J. R., & Shamir, B. (2007). Follower-centered perspectives on leadership: A tribute to the memory of James R. Meindl. Leadership horizon, the series. Greenwich, Conn.: IAP.
  • Morgeson, F. P., DeRue, D. S., & Karam, E. P. (2010). Leadership in teams: A functional approach to understanding leadership structures and processes. Journal of Management, 36(1), 5–39. doi:10.1177/0149206309347376
  • Nicolaides, V. C., LaPort, K. A., Chen, T. R., Tomassetti, A. J., Weis, E. J., Zaccaro, S. J., & Cortina, J. M. (2014). The shared leadership of teams: A meta-analysis of proximal, distal, and moderating relationships. The Leadership Quarterly. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2014.06.006
  • Pearce, C. L., & Conger, J. A. (Eds.). (2003). Shared leadership: Reframing the hows and whys of leadership. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.
  • Pearce, C. L., Manz, C. C., & Sims, H. P. (2014). Share, don't take the lead. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
  • Wang, D., Waldman, D. A., & Zhang, Z. (2014). A meta-analysis of shared leadership and team effectiveness. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99(2), 181–198.