What predicts the development of shared leadership?

On this blog we have mentioned several times (e.g. here and here) that shared leadership has become an important leadership paradigm in the 21st century.  Up until now, we have not offered you an overview of what factors increase the likelihood that shared leadership will develop.

In reviewing that literature, it struck me that I could quite easily classify (at least at first sight) these antecedents in the framework of the social determination theory. This motivation theory basically argues that people have innate psychological needs that are the basis for self-motivation and personality integration. Those innate needs are :

  • Autonomy: Is the universal urge to be causal agents of one’s own life and act in harmony with one’s integrated self
  • Belongingness (or relatedness): Is the universal want to interact, be connected to, and experience caring for others.
  • Competence: seek to control the outcome and experience mastery

This ABC of motivation might be an easy framework to remember the different antecedents of shared leadership. At the same time I made a distinction between the characteristic of the individuals and the characteristics of the context. The latter are often actions the vertical leader can take.



  • Self-leadership
  • Knowledge workers
  • Distinct expertise


  • Creating freedom
  • Diminish distractions (securing resources, manage the boundaries)
  • Empower them



  • Trust and satisfaction with the vertical leaders
  • Need to cooperate
  • Commitment
  • Length of the relationship (more length, more chances)


  • Coaching
  • Providing timely feedback
  • Task interdependence (more, more chances)
  • Task complexity (more, more chances)
  • Proximity (i.e. face to face more chances)
  • Strong internal team environment
  • Team size 5 or less



  • Distinct expertise
  • Flow


  • Providing clear goals
  • Complex tasks
  • Task that ask for creativity
  • Matching challenges and skills
  • Coaching
  • Providing timely feedback
  • Valuing excellence
  • Peer evaluations systems
  • Training in teamskills- influence and reactions to influence

Any comment?


Balthazard, P., Waldman, D., Howell, J., & Atwater, L. (2004, January). Shared leadership and group interaction styles in problem-solving virtual teams. Proceedings of the 37th annual Hawaii international conference on system sciences  43(HICSS, Vol. 1, p. 10043b)

Carson, J., Tesluk, P., & Marrone, J. (2007). Shared leadership in teams: An investigation of antecedent conditions and performance. Academy of Management Journal, 50, 1217–1234.

Cordery, J., Soo, C., Kirkman, B., Rosen, B., & Mathieu, J. (2009). Leading parallel global virtual teams: Lessons from Alcoa. Organizational Dynamics, 38, 204–216

Elloy, D. F. (2008). The relationship between self-leadership behaviors and organizationvariables in a self-managed work team environment. Management Research News, 31, 801–810.

George, V., Burke, L. J., Rodgers, B., Duthie, N., Hoffmann, M. L., Koceja, V., et al.(2002). Developing staff nurse  shared leadership behavior in professional nursing practice. Nursing Administration Quarterly, 26(3), 44–59.

Hooker, C., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2003). Flow, creativity, and shared leadership: Rethinking the motivation and structuring of knowledge work. In C. L. Pearce & J. A. Conger (Eds.), Shared leadership: Reframing the hows and whys of leadership (pp. 217–234). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Houghton, J.D., Neck, C.P., & Manz, C.C. (2003). Self-leadership and superleadership: The heart and art of creating shared leadership in teams. In C.L. Pearce & J.A. Conger (Eds.), Shared leadership: Reframing the hows and whys of leadership (pp. 123–140). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Konu, A., & Viitanen, E. (2008). Shared leadership in Finnish social and health care. Leadership in Health Services, 21, 28–40.

 Olson-Sanders, T. (2006). Collectivity and influence: The nature of shared leadership and its relationship with team learning orientation, vertical leadership and team effectiveness (Doctoral dissertation, George Washington University, 2006). Retrieved from ABI/INFORM Global (Publication No. AAT 3237041).

Pearce, C.J. (2004). The future of leadership: combining vertical and shared leadership to transform work.  Academy of Management Executive, 18 (1), 47-57

Ropo, A., & Sauer, E. (2003). Partnerships of orchestras: Towards shared leadership. International Journal of Arts Management, 5(2), 44–55.

Shamir, B., & Lapidot, Y. (2003). Shared leadership in the management of group boundaries: A study of expulsions from officers’ training courses. In C. L. Pearce & J. A. Conger (Eds.), Shared leadership: Reframing the hows and whys of leadership (pp. 235–249). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Wood, M. S. (2005). Determinants of shared leadership in management teams. International Journal of Leadership Studies, 1(1) 64–85.


About Jesse Segers

Academic Director of The Future Leadership Initiative
This entry was posted in 2. Shared & collective, 3. Self-determination & motivation, Academic insights & evidence, English and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to What predicts the development of shared leadership?

  1. Dear Jesse,

    I am very thrilled to read about the connection you propose between of the basic psychological needs of the SDT and the emergence of shared leadership. I am studying a similar connection. One of the things I am interested in, is if a shared/distributed leadership environment (in which leadership switches between organizational members) can support the need for autonomy, also if one is not in the lead.
    What is your practical experience with creating a context for autonomy, competence and relatedness that supports shared leadership? Do you think non-formal leaders could influence this as well?

    Frank Hulsbos

  2. Jesse Segers says:

    Dear Frank, I definitely believe that non-formal leaders can help create such an environment. Although their implicit leadership scheme is likely to play a role here. Feel free to contact me on my email address: jesse.segers@ua.ac.be to discuss this, as well as my practical experience around it, further.

  3. Thanks, happy to hear that you found it interesting.

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