A volatile financial environment, greater accountability pressures, the need for new business models, new technologies, and changing demographics are just some of the challenges facing higher education leaders in the 21st century. Such challenges necessitate new forms of leadership, chief among them being the principles of collaborative or shared leadership. Shared leadership is defined as moving away from the leader/follower binary and capitalizing on the importance of leaders throughout the organization, not just those in positions of authority.
In Shared Leadership in Higher Education: Important Lessons from Research and Practice, Adrianna Kezar and Elizabeth Holcombe of the University of Southern California argue that shared leadership consistently emerges as a key factor for organizations that were best able to learn, innovate, perform and adapt to the types of external challenges that campuses now face. They also argue that in order to reap the benefits of shared leadership, organizations should ensure that such leadership structures and processes are authentic and thoughtfully designed. Conditions that promote and sustain shared leadership include team empowerment, supportive vertical or hierarchical leaders, autonomy, shared purpose or goal, external coaching, accountability structures, interdependence, fairness of rewards, and shared cognition.