Project Management

Promoting Shared Leadership

Southern Alberta Chapter

Mike Griffiths is an experienced project manager, author and consultant who works for PMI as a subject matter expert. Before joining PMI, Mike consulted and managed innovation and technology projects throughout Europe, North and South America for 30+ years. He was co-lead for the PMBOK Guideā€”Seventh Edition, lead for the Agile Practice Guide, and contributor to the PMI-ACP and PMP exam content outlines. Outside of PMI, Mike maintains the websites www.LeadingAnswers.com about leading teams and www.PMillustrated.com, which teaches project management for visual learners.

Agile methods suggest replacing top-down, command-and-control management with empowered teams and shared leadership. That all sounds nice, but what exactly is shared leadership and how do you get it to happen?

Katzenbach & Smith, authors of the book The Wisdom of Teams, explain that shared leadership can occur “where a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable”--in other words, when we have a well-formed team with a strong sense of commitment. In these circumstances, team members know that they possess the technical knowledge necessary to make the best local decisions and will self-organize and encourage each other to achieve results.

Examples of effective shared leadership include the Orpheus orchestra that I wrote about in 2008. The Orpheus orchestra has no assigned conductor; instead, performers rotate the role, providing unique perspectives and also broadening their experience. Unlike your first guess, this conductor-less orchestra does not sound terrible--they have won a number of Grammy awards and perform to sold-out audiences worldwide.

The other classic example is geese flying in “V” formation, which reduces drag and extends daily flight range by up to 50 percent compared to individual birds. All …


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