A stronger rider passed on my left and I figured I would try to draft behind him to see if I could take advantage of him cutting through the wind ahead of me. It worked. My ride was noticeably easier.
After a short distance he noticed what I was doing, motioned for me to ride up alongside him, and suggested that we take turns drafting. Over the next 5 miles we took turns leading and drafting, sharing the work of riding against the wind and reaping the benefit of drafting in each other’s wake.
As a leader, have you ever felt like you were the only one riding into the wind? It seems like you’re always the one in front absorbing the full impact of everything the workplace throws against you and your team. You wish you had someone to cut the wind ahead of you, but you don’t, and it leaves you feeling battered, demoralized, and exhausted.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
My recent bike ride reminded me that leadership, just like biking, doesn’t have to be an individual sport and often works better in a shared context. Here’s five reasons why you shouldn’t lead alone:
1. Share the burden – Sharing leadership can be more efficient and productive than leading alone. By drafting with the other rider, I increased my speed and lowered my time around the 5 mile course. You don’t have to be the only one in charge of everything, so leverage the skills and abilities of those around you to make your job a little bit easier. Many hands make the burden light.
2. Tame the ego – Power has an intoxicating influence that can easily ruin your integrity as a leader. All you have to do is examine the news headlines to see this happening everyday. Sharing the power and responsibility of leadership builds an accountability structure around you that keeps your ego in check and your leadership on course.
3. Better leadership – Sharing leadership can allow you to maximize complementary skill sets among people that leads to more effective leadership overall for your team, department, or organization. Some organizations intentionally pursue a Co-CEO model for this very reason. In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing business climate, combining the efforts of leaders can result in powerful gains for the organization.
4. Camaraderie and support – I was alone and struggling on my bike ride, but when I started working together with a fellow rider, I immediately felt the camaraderie and support that encouraged me to keep going. Leadership can be a lonely trek, but sharing the journey with others allows for mutual support and encouragement that keeps everyone’s spirit and morale high.
5. Keep pace – Partnering with the other rider allowed me to maintain a faster pace than riding alone. When he was in the lead I fed off the challenge of keeping up with him so I could reap the benefits of riding in his slipstream. When it was my turn to lead, I didn’t want to disappoint him by slowing down the pace so I worked even harder than I would have if riding on my own. Sharing leadership can help everyone up their game and perform at higher levels than they would individually.
Before you string me up as a leadership heretic, let me say I’m talking more about the process of leadership rather than the actual position. In most situations there needs to be someone with the final responsibility to make the “go/no-go” decision, but the process – the way in which leadership is manifested in an organization – often works better when it’s shared among individuals.
What are your thoughts? Do you have experience with shared leadership models? Feel free to leave a comment.