Shared and Distributed Leadership

Traditional approaches to leadership emphasize the empowerment of subordinates to make an individual leader more effective. With this approach, the focus is on the process by which leaders enable others to share responsibility for leadership functions. This model assumes that distributed leadership and power sharing are inevitable in organizations, and the organizations cannot be understood by focusing solely on the decisions and actions of individual leaders. Namely, strategic leadership "empowers others to participate in the process of interpreting events, solving problems, and making decisions" (Argyris, 1964; Likert, 1967).

This perspective recognizes that the actions of any individual leader are less important than the collective leadership provided by many members of the organization (Day, Gronn, & Salas, 2004). Viewing leadership in terms of reciprocal, recursive influence processes among multiple leaders is different from studying unidirectional effects of a single leader on subordinates.

"Distributed leadership involves multiple leaders with distinct but interrelated responsibilities. If the various leaders are unable to agree about what to do and how to do it, performance of the team or organization is likely to suffer" (Mehra, Smith, Dixon, & Robertson, 2006).


Argyris, C. (1964). Integrating the individual and the organization. New York: John Wiley.

Day, D. V., Gronn, P., & Salas, E. (2004). Leadership capacity in teams. Leadership Quarterly, 15, 857–880.

Likert, R. (1967). The human organization: Its management and value. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Mehra, A., Smith, B., Dixon, A., & Robertson, B. (2006). Distributed leadership in teams: The network of leadership perceptions and team performance. Leadership Quarterly, 17, 232–245.