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Shared Leadership: A Tool for Innovation, Engagement, and Inclusion


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For years, nonprofit leaders have questioned the utility of traditional models of top-down staff leadership structures. But the growing body of research on alternatives – from co-directorship to distributed leadership to self-organizing teams – has been difficult to sort through. In this highly participatory session, participants will explore emerging models, the research on what works (and what doesn’t), and how capacity builders can help organizations adopt leadership structures that work. As the session exercises build upon the previous ones, participants are asked to attend the full session.

Session offered at the 2015 conference of the Alliance for Nonprofit Management by Mike Allison (Michael Allison Consulting), Sean Thomas-Breitfeld (Building Movement Project), and Max Freund (LF Leadership).

Published in: Leadership & Management
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Shared Leadership: A Tool for Innovation, Engagement, and Inclusion

  1. 1. Shared Leadership A Tool For Innovation, Engagement and Inclusion Max Freund LF Leadership Sean Thomas-Breitfeld Building Movement Project Mike Allison Michael Allison Consulting
  2. 2. Agenda 2 1. Welcome & introductions 2. Checking in 3. Definitions & academic theory 4. Theory into practice 5. Success factors & capacities 6. Making it real: Open Space peer coaching
  3. 3. Introductions 3  Who are you? Where are you from?  What is your prior experience with shared leadership? (If any)  What is the single biggest question you have?
  4. 4. What do we mean by shared leadership? Definitions, Dimensions, and Key Research Findings Max Freund LF Leadership
  5. 5. Leaders hip Post-Heroic Leadership 5 Shared Leadershi p Distribute d Leadershi p Co- Leadershi p Collective Leadershi p Complexit y Leadershi p Relational Leadershi p Emergent Leadershi p Integrative Leadershi p Romance of Leadershi p Followers hip Theory Implicit Leadershi p Theory Social Identity Theory Lead er
  6. 6. Defining Shared Leadership 6 “A simultaneous, ongoing, mutual influence process involving the serial emergence of official as well as unofficial leaders” (Pearce & Conger, 2003)
  7. 7. Dimensions of shared leadership 7  Distribution: (De)centralization of leadership influence  Role multiplexity: How many hats people wear  Time: Stepping up (and back) as situations require Contractor, et al. (2012) Who What When
  8. 8. Visualizing shared leadership 8
  9. 9. Mapping the literature 9 Supportive Factors • Shared purpose • Norms/culture • Social support • Voice • Trust • “Vertical” leader coaching • Psychological empowerment Outcomes • Trust • Cohesion • Lower conflict • Agreement • Innovation • Satisfaction • Performance Processes • Info sharing • Transactive memory (KWKW) • Shared mental models • Collective efficacy Contingencies • Knowledge-based work • Complex task • Interdependent team • Emergent leader prototypicality • Homogeneity of age/tenure Shared Leadership
  10. 10. Psychological Empowerment Meaning Self- Determination Impact Self-Efficacy
  11. 11. 11 Organizational Structure Culture & Practices Group Process Shared leadership as…
  12. 12. Shared Leadership in Action Sean Thomas-Breitfeld Building Movement Project
  13. 13. Why “Alternative” Structures?  Generational factors  Desire for increased impact and effectiveness  Practices of distributing decision- making and leadership are important
  14. 14. BMP’s Research
  15. 15. Mapping the Options  Varied topography of alternative structures  Common foundations for distributed leadership: oHigh Levels of Trust oInvestment in Learning oValues Base oPatience and Time
  16. 16. Mapping the Options
  17. 17. Mapping the Options
  18. 18. Stages of Structuring Leadership Foundation Trust Learning Shared Values Patience Implementation Autonomy Buy- in Info-Sharing Clarity Release Indicators Shared decision- making External Representation New Ideas
  19. 19. Benefits  Power to decide on programs  New ideas and innovation  More responsibility and responsiveness  Diverse external representation  Greater impact
  20. 20. Case 1: Make the Road New York  Three Co-Directors at time of the What Works report  Leadership structure evolved as result of both growth and values  More time for meetings
  21. 21. Case 2: Building Movement Project
  22. 22. Shared Leadership Widening the Spectrum of Leadership Two Funded Initiatives Mike Allison Michael Allison Consulting
  23. 23. Definitions Intelligence Leadership The ability to create something, solve a challenge or address an issue that is of value across communities and groups of people (based on the definition of Intelligence from Howard Gardner’s Frames of Mind). The practice of developing and exercising intelligence in self and developing and supporting the intelligence of others.
  24. 24. Definitions and Styles of Leadership 24 SIMPLE TECHNICAL DIRECTIVE COMPLEX ADAPTIVE COACH’S STANCE
  25. 25. Strengthening Organizations Mobilizing Californians 25 Capacity-building initiative funded by 3 foundations: the James Irvine Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation  Supported a “Leadership Learning Community” (LLC) that included  peer exchanges for executive directors and senior staff,  regional trainings, and  comprehensive convenings.  TCC Group, a national management-consulting firm, designed, managed, and facilitated the initiative.  Twenty-seven participating organizations  annual budgets ranging from $500,000 to $2 million;  at least five staff members; eight board members; and one hundred volunteers.
  26. 26. 26 Variance in who leads what, through which structures, along a spectrum between more authoritarian models, which focus on one leader, and more inclusive models which focus on the leadership of many. Lessons Learned: The Spectrum of Leadership
  27. 27. Shared Leadership Requires: 27  Adaptability by all leaders, most of the staff  Trust  Shared Leadership Norm
  28. 28. Organizational Readiness: Prerequisites 1. Explicit commitment by senior leadership to change 2. Up front investment of time to educate and plan 3. Fundamental management practices in place 4. Focus on engagement and accountability and learning 5. Identification of and agreement on shared values 28
  29. 29. Potential Points of Entry  Mindsets Attention to organizational values, culture and relationships – paying attention to the what  Behaviors & Processes Attention to domains such as communication and decision-making – paying attention to the how  Structures & Strategies Organizational restructuring – breaking out of what has been 29
  30. 30. Important Considerations… 30  Dimensions of inclusion & diversity  Leadership teams  Connection (and disconnection) with influencing bodies  Coherence/alignment  Responsibility of leadership
  31. 31. Haas, Jr. Fund Flexible Leadership Awards 31  Substantial leadership development support  ($35,000 to $175,000)  more than 45 Haas, Jr. Fund grantees  three to five years implementing solutions to the leadership challenges and opportunities they face.  While participating in the FLA,  grantees all continue to receive separate program or general operating support grants  Activities supported by the Fund’s FLA investments  executive coaching  strategic planning  training for executives and senior teams  board development  fund development and communications planning
  32. 32. Flexible Leadership Awards 32  Independent five-year evaluation of the first cohort of FLA organizations found that 13 of 14 met or surpassed the leadership and mission goals they set at the start of the program.  13 of the 14 organizations grew their budgets an average of 64 percent between 2005 and 2010, for a total $19 million portfolio-wide increase, despite the economic downturn in 2008
  33. 33. Flexible Leadership Awards 33  Shared leadership played a role implicitly or explicitly in most participating organizations  Executive Coaching for CEO and Senior Managers  Senior team development  Leadership training for Program Managers  General team building, focused on engaging staff at different levels, building trust and potential for adaptability
  34. 34. Questions to Consider  What are other successful ways to develop and sustain the capacity to flex and share leadership?  How can leadership capacity be extended beyond staff to the board, to constituents and to allies?  How can shared leadership within individual organizations support and enhance field / movement building strategies?  What are the implications for philanthropy and capacity builders in supporting shared leadership in organizations and their constituencies? 34
  35. 35. Assessing Readiness 35
  36. 36. Making it Real Open Space and Organizational Scenarios
  37. 37. Open Space Agenda Purpose: Deepen exploration of shared leadership, apply and extend research through peer coaching.  Organizational Scenarios: create framework, spark thinking, apply research  Pitch Cases for Coaching: tell us what issue org. is trying to address; form of shared leadership (if any)  Peer Coaching: dig into cases
  38. 38. Scenario 1: Leadership Transition  Background:  Community-based org.; address community / domestic violence  Founder wants to retire  Next generation of managers don’t want to take on ED role  Readiness Issues:  Some competition in the past between managers over strategy, program funding / allocation, and taking credit for wins  Board AND funders/donors primarily identify org. with founder  Key Questions: Should the organization take on a co- directorship model? What would it take to prepare them for that transition?
  39. 39. Scenario 2: Spreading Leadership to Clients  Background:  Emergency Food Provider  Foundation program officer raised concerns about lack of client involvement / voice  Readiness Issues:  Organization has support for the initiative, but not raised idea with orgs. client base  Leadership team is split on support  Limited client feedback loops  Key Questions: How could the organization support greater leadership by clients? How would the organization need to change its practices and ways of relating to clients?
  40. 40. Pitch Cases Three Minutes to Describe:  Relevant Background  Preliminary Readiness Assessment  Key Questions facing the Organization and/or Capacity Builder
  41. 41. Modified Open Space  Law of Mobility  Whoever Comes are the Right People  Whatever Happens in 30 Minutes is the Only Thing that Could Have Happened
  42. 42. Peer Coaching Questions  Describe issue to address (2-3 min.)  How do you see the research themes showing up in this situation?  What might be the intentions and feelings driving these questions about leadership structure?  Clarify desired outcomes (5-10 min.)  How would changing the leadership structure support success for the organization?  What research-based principles can you apply?  Identify potential solutions (5-10 min.)  How ready is the org. for an alternative leadership structure?  What model or approach seems like the best fit?  How does the theory and research inform the possible approaches?  Initial action steps (2-3 min.)  Can you chunk out the transition / implementation over time?  What are the first action steps?
  43. 43. Recap & Next Steps
  44. 44. Next steps 44  What burning capacity-building questions still remain that warrant further exploration through research to advance the field?  Is there interest in a continuing community of practice or affinity group?  Please complete your session evaluation!
  45. 45. Thank you! Let’s continue the conversation… Max Freund LF Leadership Sean Thomas-Breitfeld Building Movement Project Mike Allison Michael Allison Consulting