The APLN Seattle Leadership Summit
Seattle APLN Update and Agile Program Management Slides

Shared Leadership

Shared Leadership Question: Which is better, a team with great leader as project manager, or a team of competent leaders?
Answer: The results are not even close. Companies like Semco, Toyota, and W. L. Gore & Associates have demonstrated beyond doubt, that while it is great to have an outstanding leader as project manager, it is far better to have an entire team of individuals who are competent leaders.

In the book “How People Work: And How You Can Help Them to Give Their Best” Roderic Gray outlines nine ingredients that bring about a successful outcome at work:

1. I know what I am expected to do and why it needs to be done
2. I want to do it
3. I have the ability to do it
4. Someone who matters to me will notice if I do it
5. I know how well I’m doing it
6. Processes help me do it
7. I have the resources to do it
8. The environment is right
9. I can do better next time

It is easy to look at our jobs and criticize management if any are missing. Yet, as Michael Aucoin points out, it is far better to get a critical mass of the ingredients right and then give workers the green light to fill in what is missing. This is the essence of distributed leadership and the stuff of which exemplary projects and companies are made.

An example of this shared leadership in action is the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra ( This full size orchestra has no conductor; instead they share and rotate leadership roles. So, what does this orchestra with no conductor sound like? Well, very good apparently, they have won two Grammy awards, recorded over 70 albums, and play worldwide to rave reviews, regularly performing at Carnegie Hall.

Teams do not need all 9 of the magic ingredients handed to them, but they do need to know that they have the authority and freedom add the missing ingredients from their mix. Empowered teams exhibiting shared leadership are the key to great performance. Project managers add value by illuminating and facilitating the process.


Lyssa Adkins

I printed out the 9 things with a note on the bottom that says "Which are true for us? What's missing? What would happen if you assumed you could go get it?" and posted it on the board. We'll see what that stirs up. Just the right thing at the right time - thanks.

Mike Griffiths

Hi Lyssa,

Good for you, please let me know how people respond and if anything changes.


Jim Abbondante

I've read and have been recommending Mr. Gray's insightful book to our clients. I'm in total agreement with the nine key points made in the book which any leader who has any insight into the human condition would certainly recognize as being fundamental to a person's ability to function and succeed on the job. It flows beautifully with the 'philosophy' that we encourage and reinforce in our various leadership development processes, which includes the leader asking him or herself daily, "Who do my people need me to be, and what are my people going to need from me today in order for them to succeed?" That's only one of the reasons why we are recommending and actually giving the book to many of the company presidents we are working with. An example if I may; Genuine 'leadership' really is the 'bottom line' when it comes to effectively developing and retaining your best people. There are very legitimate reasons why people join and then choose to stay with the organizations they're part of. We discussed in a recent leadership development session the fact that the number one reason why people 'choose' to leave their jobs can be traced back to ineffective leadership on the part of their immediate supervisor. We referred to recent statistics that confirmed the fact that people have a tendency to leave managers and supervisors more often than they leave companies or jobs. It's certainly helpful when a manager or supervisor is perceived as being a 'nice person' and is well-liked by the people in his or her department, but what people really want and need is effective leadership on the part of someone they respect and they trust enough to follow. They need someone who they feel has something to impart when it comes to helping them achieve their full potential and to helping them achieve the success they desire on their job and in their career overall; which includes mentoring, coaching, challenging individuals to stretch beyond their norms, essentially providing the direction and feedback necessary for growth. When in the process of setting their people up to win, managers and supervisors make an employee feel respected, valued and also appreciated, the manager or supervisor is not only functioning more in a 'leadership' capacity but they are also contributing to the ultimate retention of the employee. And in like manner, anything the supervisor does to make an employee feel under-valued will contribute to negative progress and unwanted turnover. Probably one of the most important functions that will lead to employee retention involves letting team members know in specific terms what 'good' looks like, and why it's considered 'good'. Some of the most common complaints that have come out of exit interviews and from 'blind' exit surveys have included a lack of clarity regarding specific expectations, a lack of clarity regarding one's earning potential, a lack of feedback regarding one's performance, a lack of 'follow through' with regard to commitments made, canceling scheduled meetings, and a failure to create an environment that's conducive to the employee's achieving success; all of which reflect ineffective leadership on the part of their supervisor. In summary, one of the most important things I've learned over the years in this business is that 'work' is about the money, but true 'loyalty' is all about relationship and how people feel about themselves 'on the job', and how important they feel their contribution is to the success of the team (family), and whether or not they are succeeding and feel really appreciated. Why not take a look at your own organization. Are you really doing your best to retain your most valued people? Consider these remarks and Mr. Grays list of fundamentals. Ask yourself what you can do to make an ever bigger difference in the lives of your people and see how many ways it comes back to you. Leadership really is 'the bottom line' in the people business! (By the way, Leadership-The Bottom Line happens to be the name of our unique approach to the development of high performance leaders. Feel free to contact me (Dr. Jim) (800-955-0109) for free leadership development materials or for a free two hour leadership development session at your location. We're happy to share!) And pick up a copy of Mr. Gray's book if you haven't already. It's very well written!

Eva Kwan

first 9 seem exactly right to me. I would add snacks to the list. Successful outcome can be guaranteed with the first 9 points, plus snacks.


your points are great especially " I know what I am expected to do and why it needs to be done " sometimes we need this objective to get done with our works


Question -- would someone explain nbr 9 for me, please? I haven't read the book...

Mike Griffiths

Number 9 "I can do better next time" means there is an opportunity for improvement. We will get another go at improving. It allows for a sense of progression and accomplishment. People like to be able to see that they are getting better and have an opportunity to do so.

Best regards


Thank you for the explanation. I plan to explore this further -- very interesting.

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