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Shared Leadership – Justin Featherstone

The idea of the leader as a charismatic moral guardian and inviolate authority, standing like a lighthouse for all to follow is anachronistic and slightly preposterous, yet, it is still one that pervades so much traditional leadership development today. In today’s commercial environments, the need for agility, challenge, ethical consideration, distributed responsibility and fluid decision-making, suggest the concepts of share leadership might be far more applicable and practical.

Why do we, therefore, develop leadership in our people relatively late in their careers and why do we often develop only a select few? In a world of increasingly complex interdependencies, informal networks and ever-evolving communication technologies. Perhaps a new leadership framework is required? Dr Simon Western has suggested a framework of Eco leadership, with a function to develop a capacity to deal with “ambivalence and uncertainty”, Leadership: A critical text 2nd Edition, to create and sustain connectivity as well as to provide sense-making for the organisation as it encounters change.

Shared leadership has been the leadership style of many indigenous groups around the world for centuries, and even millennia. However conventional leadership development has eschewed it until now outside of the Public and Third Sectors. Its foundation of shared ownership, responsibility and organisational agility are principles we often look to develop in our teams and projects, so maybe now it is finally time to say goodbye to the heroic leader of antiquity and develop a broader leadership capability across our organisations.



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Written by Justin

Justin Featherstone is a leadership consultant and expedition leader. He has worked with a variety of Public Sector and commercial organisations both in the UK and overseas and specialises in developing values-based leadership, shared leadership and organisational culture. He also is an occasional lecturer on leadership at the Universities of Exeter and Ljubljana, Slovenia.

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