I'm totally geeking out about what's happening in Arizona right now. As I write this post, a Waymo driverless car passed my window. I haven't test-ridden it yet, however, I was invited to an event where the company was testing the car's responses to emergency vehicles in Chandler, Arizona.
I also recently was given a personal tour of Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute where scientists are researching cool things like bacteria that can clean up pollutants and generate industrial chemicals. And I was just granted a tour of Boeing's plant in Mesa where Apache helicopters are manufactured. All of this is happening within a thirty-mile radius known as the PHX East Valley region. Awesome, right?
This innovation comes at a time in Arizona when, for the second year in a row, US News & World Report ranked Arizona State University as the country's most innovative university. It comes at a time when a once barren desert is being quickly developed to handle rapid population expansion. And, it comes when governmental regulations are stifling business, and companies are looking for a new place to call home.
But all this talk of innovation and growth doesn't come without a strangely perfect blend of competition and collaboration that requires a form of leadership that most companies could learn from--shared leadership.
"Every city wants to welcome these companies," John Lewis, President/CEO of PHX East Valley told me. "The competition could get ugly between city leaders when these large companies start scoping for space. But, as long as I've worked in the government or the private sector, I've never seen a group of leaders embrace collaboration and competition at the same time like this. They take turns leading based on which city has the right assets. And, they understand that if a neighboring city attracts Intel, JPMorgan Chase & Co., or State Farm that everyone still wins."
Other industries, like healthcare, are seeing positive results from shared leadership as well. Stanford Health Care, for example, is practicing shared leadership amongst nurses--empowering different individuals to define, implement and maintain practice standards for patient care. There's also a big push for shared leadership in schools as many educators believe the days of one principal as a lone instructional leader are gone.
"We're finding evidence on six continents that sharing decision making is not only better than a single, command-and-control leadership, but it is a prerequisite to succeed with today's complex, global initiatives," said Mark Cook, a director of the O.C. Tanner Institute. "Handing control to the person who knows the subject and has hands-on experience is far more beneficial than holding on to the reigns because one has the title of boss. The traditional leader's role becomes one of creating an emotional connection with the work and an effective, and a collaborative camaraderie."
How can you start sharing leadership?
1. Be a cheerleader rather than the boss.
Research conducted for the Great Work Study found that employees want to make a difference. That makes sense. How many of us take jobs assuming that we'll just be marginal at best. Instead of seeing your role as a boss-- someone who keeps people in line-- cheer people on to become the best versions of themselves.
2. Create a culture of empowerment.
Policy and procedure are necessary when it comes to safety and wellbeing. However, research shows that companies and leaders that empower their people to challenge and question the status quo achieve better results. In fact, 88 percent of award-winning work projects begin with a probing question like, "What if we..." or "Why can't we..." or "What if..."
3. Trust their expertise.
Being a leader doesn't mean you're in charge of other people. It means people have chosen to follow you. And, when you share leadership responsibilities with your people or team, you're showing them that you choose to follow their expertise. You trust their judgment, and you appreciate the knowledge, and decision-making ability they bring to the table.
4. Appreciate their effort, energy and guts.
It's easy to pat people on the back when they create awesome results. But, as leaders, it's also important to recognize people when they are giving their best effort, investing their energy into a project and taking a risk by leading. If you share leadership with a team member, your role shifts. You become a master of appreciation.
The world is changing, and so must our models and perceptions of leadership. Sharing leadership might make you uncomfortable at first. But if Waymo can teach us anything, it might be that we've been holding on to the wheel for far too long.