“A shared or distributed leadership model is better suited for guiding companies that are facing more uncertain, more changing, and more complex markets “(p.23) is what is argued in the book ‘Boards that lead. When to take charge, when to partner, and when to stay out of the way from’ (2014).

Although it is clear that the authors are not familiar with the shared leadership literature in depth, what they state upon their rich amount of experience in working with board rooms in corporate America (including Apple in critical times) matches very nicely with existing insights. For example

  • It all starts with grasping and internalizing a clear and compelling central idea, something other writers (e.g. Laloux, 2014) would call the evolutionary purpose of the organization.
  • Next you have to recruit board members that build values and root out dysfunctional ones.  Hence, they basically argue, just like Pearce et al. (2014) that in shared leadership, task proficiency comes first.  The latter is not that easy because in board rooms “collegiality and comity still prevail; board members are still reluctant to critize a fellow director” (p.63).
  • Key is the role of the board leader as he/she is the “ombudsman between the CEO and the board” (p.86).

Obviously boards should not share the leadership with the CEO on everything, but what the book recommends is the following:

Take Charge Partner Stay out of the way Monitor
Central idea Strategy, capital allocation, execution Execution Shareholder value
Selection of CEO Financial goals, shareholder value, stakeholder balance Operations
Board competence, architecture, modus operandi Risk appetite Delegated executive authority
Ethics and integrity Resource allocation, including mergers and acquisitions Nonstrategic decisions
Compensation architecture Talent development Excluded by board charter
Culture of decisiveness

At the end shared leadership on the boardroom level redefines the concept of corporate governance to include board level as well.

Any comments?

Charan, R., Carey, D., Useem, M. (2014). Boards that lead. When to take charge, when to partner and when to stay out of the way. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

Laloux, F. (2014). Reinventing organizations. Nelson Parker

Pearce, C.L., Manz, C.C., & Sims, H.P. (2014). Share, don’t take the lead. Information Age Publishing.




Share on: