I was working with a group this week and experienced a remarkable example of shared leadership. Shared leadership happens when members of a work group step forward with honest, forthright opinions, and direct feedback. There is a clear shift of power, when first one person takes the reins and points the group in a direction, and then another steps forward offering a new perspective or idea, and then another, and so on, and so on. Responsability for guiding the discussion passes from member to member, until it is clear that all who sit in the circle are fully participating in where the group is going next. Someone who did not know the heirarchy of the group might be hard pressed to determine who is in charge. The answer is, all who sit in the circle have accepted their unique role as a leader and share ownership in achieving the group's collective goal.
This type of leadership requires knowing when one must take a stand and be heard and when it's time to yield the floor and listen intently. The level of trust needed to facilitate shared leadership is in part created when the organizational leader is able to step back and create the space for others to step up. There also seems to be a high level of respect for fellow members. One might say the group has found some common ground related to shared values and vision. There is a sense of purpose and a spoken or unspoken agreement to some set of guiding principals.
I've worked with groups to create these types of creative dialogues and have products that specifically seek to develop these Leadership Circles. What I find mystfying is that some leaders are able to create this outcome without a map, but rather through an internal compass that leads them down the path. I find myself questioning if cultivating one's leadership is less academic and more spirtual in nature. Or at the very least some combination of both.
Whatever it takes to get on the right path, I know I want to spend the rest of my life laying down the tracks to get the leadership train out of the station and moving in the direction of powerful and creative conversations. I want to particpate in more of those magic moments when dialogue in organizations rises above the place of fear, self-doubt, manipulation, and ego-centric positioning. I want to sit in the circle and know that Spirit is present and accounted for.