Release Date: June 1, 2022
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Tapping into the leadership skills of employees who don’t have managerial titles is critical for team success, and new University at Buffalo School of Management research reveals how organizations can do so successfully.
Available online ahead of publication in The Leadership Quarterly, the research offers a nuanced understanding of shared leadership, in which multiple members assume leadership roles to lead each other—either simultaneously or on a rotating basis.
“Shared leadership generally develops as roles transition across team members, especially when their expertise fits the needs of the team,” says James Lemoine, PhD, associate professor of organization and human resources in the UB School of Management. “But the exact process has yet to be discovered, which has limited our ability to put it into practice.”
To address this concern, the researchers conducted a study of 450 participants in 90 teams. Each team was challenged with a simulated climb to the top of Mount Everest, which included three critical challenges: the allocation of medical supplies, assessment of weather conditions and distribution of oxygen containers.
Their findings reveal three key ways managers can develop shared leadership:
“Organizations might typically focus on just a few members as potential leaders who might be strongly extraverted or match stereotypical ideas of leadership,” says Paul Tesluk, PhD, professor and dean of the UB School of Management. “But widely distributing leadership, supporting those with less dominant personalities and building member credibility are the most effective ways to increase engagement—and improve team performance.”
Lemoine and Tesluk collaborated on the study with UB School of Management doctoral graduates Hamed Ghahremani, PhD ’19, assistant professor of management and marketing at the University of New Orleans; and Ning Xu, PhD ’18, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Stockholm School of Economics.