[UMass Amherst Press Release]

News Release

Oct. 16, 2014

UMass Amherst Management Professor Charles C. Manz Co-authors Book on Shared Leadership

AMHERST, Mass. – Charles C. Manz, management professor, business author and management consultant at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management, has co-authored a new book that promotes the concept of shared leadership, a dynamic leadership process where multiple members of an organization play an important and interactive role. The book, which reports case studies of a wide range of organizations, is “Share, Don’t Take the Lead: Leadership Lessons from 21 Vanguard Organizations,” by Manz, Craig L. Pearce and Henry P. Sims.

Manz, who is the Charles and Janet Nirenberg Professor of Leadership at the Isenberg School, says shared leadership helps create a set of checks and balances within an organization that protects against the kind of leadership corruption too often making the news in recent years. He says it can lead to a more dynamic, flexible and robust structure for making decisions. Some keys to success for companies using shared leadership are keeping egos in check, establishing trust within teams, maintaining a commonly shared vision and purpose, finding the right people, valuing knowledge more than status and encouraging healthy debate of ideas.

Manz says the philosophy of shared leadership “rests on the notion that nearly every single human being is capable of sharing the burden and responsibility of leading, at least to some extent, in nearly all types of organizational circumstances.” In presenting the idea, Manz says this contradicts much conventional wisdom about business and organizational leadership that over-relies on hierarchy and vertical structures.

Nevertheless, he also says shared leadership can work hand-in-hand with more traditional hierarchical leadership models. Manz says traditional business leaders and managers can provide support and backing for teams of individuals who adopt shared leadership and can encourage the adoption of these ideas at all levels of management.

Shared leadership takes different forms, Manz and his colleagues argue. There is rotated shared leadership where different people assume the role of leader at different times. An example of this is found in Alcoholics Anonymous, a completely volunteer organization. Different people step up to be leaders within AA because everyone involved has a set of shared values and ethics that runs throughout the whole organization. AA also uses communication as a key tool to make the system work. This organizational model also helps combine people with distinct skills with those with complementary styles. And perhaps most importantly, at AA, egos and personal agendas are held in check by self-discipline and wisdom, Manz says.

Integrated shared leadership is where roles shift and transitions are made more fluidly and rapidly between the individuals involved. Southwest Airlines is one of the studies presented in the book as an example of integrated shared leadership. Manz and his colleagues say this company has been hugely successful because of where it puts its management focus – not on the customers but on its employees. The company culture teaches its workers to focus on chipping in wherever help is needed and supporting and working well with co-workers, a key ingredient for using integrated shared leadership.

Distributed shared leadership deals more with how to disperse leadership roles widely within an organization. An example of this form of leadership comes from so-called megachurches. Manz and his colleagues say the most successful of these large churches over time encourage significant empowerment at all levels, and this is especially encouraged by senior leaders. This supports motivation based on people discovering their individual special gifts that operate within the church’s well-defined vision and mission.

The fourth form is comprehensive shared leadership where companies infuse all the forms of shared leadership practices throughout their entire cultures. W.L. Gore & Associates is featured as a firm that has practiced shared leadership without formal structure for the past 50 years. The company makes an innovative array of products including waterproof, windproof garments incorporating the firm’s premiere material Gore-Tex. It also makes running gear, guitar strings, medical devices and fabrics. In the initial 40 years, leaders developed teams in their local plants and plants were kept to 200 employees to promote team development and a personal connection among all involved. The company now uses virtual teams whose members are located in different places around the world.

Charles C. Manz, 413/545-5584, cmanz@isenberg.umass.edu
Patrick J. Callahan, 413/545-0444, pjcall@admin.umass.edu

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