As school leaders, we know that it is not possible (nor recommended) to do everything on our own. No big surprise here.
The concept of shared leadership isn’t new. I am quite confident that most if not all of the school leaders that I work with can describe without difficulty the characteristics of a work environment in which shared leadership is practiced. However, saying it is one thing, and actually doing it is another.
When I walk into a school where shared leadership is thriving, I see leadership opportunities being offered to all of the staff, not only a select few. These opportunities come in different shapes and forms: coaching, data analysis, pedagogical leader, team leader, event leader, PD, school spirit and culture leader, just to name a few. In some cases, I have even seen shared leadership extend to parents and volunteers.
While searching and reading online about shared leadership, I discovered this short Powtoon (in French) in which I found the following definition (translated from French by me):
It is a collaborative and relational process involving a team or group in which everyone exerts their influence over others, and where responsibilities are collectively distributed.
To me, this definition touches on the most important pieces of shared leadership. It emphasizes the importance of learning through processes, collaboration, relationship building, and the fulfillment of both the team and the individual. As a leader, it is essential to have these important pillars in place in order to build capacity, and develop other leaders.
A shared leadership approach offers several advantages, including:
- tapping into the collective intelligence
- solving challenges by adopting different innovative approaches
- bringing positive change to culture
- developing the leadership skills of team members
- developing a sense of belonging, thus a higher commitment level
- developing and fostering relationships
- increasing productivity
- keeping the bar high regarding expectations (students and staff)
All of these can help build, maintain, and help your team to evolve.
Exercising leadership = taking action, having influence, and making an impact.
As a principal, three questions come to mind when I consider all the initiatives and activities we plan to undertake during a school year:
- What should I be doing?
- What should I stop doing?
- Who should doing it?
Here is a simple and effective strategy that has served me well in the past, and that can help you develop a shared leadership:
- Make a list of all planned initiatives and activities.
- For each initiative and activity, identify those that:
- have an impact on student learning and well-being
- have an impact on staff learning and well-being
- have an impact on my learning and well-being
This short list of initiatives and activities should be what your team will be prioritizing.
Now, based on the skills, interests and passions of each member of the team, match each individual to an initiative or activity.
What happens if this pairing takes someone outside of their comfort zone? Just remember: rarely do we grow when we are functioning within our comfort zone.
I encourage all leaders to reflect on how they are building leadership within their school or company. What are some of the ways you are facilitating and creating leadership opportunities?