Collectivistic Leadership Approaches: Putting the ‘‘We’’ in Leadership Science and Practice


We introduce the notion of ‘‘we’’ or collectivistic leadership. A general collectivistic approach to leadership
is developed and contrasted with traditional and contemporary approaches to leadership. An overview of five
collectivistic leadership approaches—team, network, shared, complexity, and collective leadership—is then
presented. Key notions, constructs, and levels of analysis; the role of a focal leader; operationalizations and
empirical results; and implications for leadership development, assessment, and practice of each approach
are summarized. Common themes across, and our perspective on, the approaches and future directions for
collectivistic leadership science and practice are discussed.

Leadership theory and research is vast
and diverse with numerous implications
for professional practice (e.g., Bass, 2008;
Yukl, 2009). However, traditional and contemporary
leadership work, both science
and practice, has focused primarily on the
leader as an individual and has been limited
to leader-to-follower interactions in
small groups, teams, and sometimes dyads.
Given the increasing demands of the work
environment, new approaches to leadership
are required that go beyond a hierarchical
leader-focused view, acknowledge

the role of higher levels of analysis, both
formal (e.g., team) and informal (e.g., network),
and involve more extensive interactions
among multiple individuals (e.g.,
Yammarino & Dansereau, 2008, 2009).
In this case, leadership is viewed as
a ‘‘we’’ or collectivistic phenomena that
involves multiple individuals assuming (and
perhaps divesting themselves) of leadership
roles over time in both formal and informal
relationships. The formal relationships can
occur not only in large and small groups
and teams, and dyads, but also in larger
collectives such as departments, functional
areas, strategic business units, networks
of various types, and multiteam systems.
The informal relationships can involve
personal networks and connections both
within the unit and organization, but also

those that bridge organizational boundaries.
Moreover, these formal and informal multilevel
structures, relationships, and roles
cannot be viewed as static, but rather are
fluid and dynamic in nature and depend on
organizational and environmental demands
and requirements.
We believe that these new collectivistic
leadership approaches are an important
development for both science and practice
in the leadership field. However, we also
see the need to be cautious regarding these
‘‘we’’ approaches to leadership due to the
limited empirical work to date supporting
the approaches. And because a number of
different models of collectivistic leadership
have emerged in recent years, we think it is
time to take stock and examine the central
tenets, practical implications, and gaps in
these approaches—both individually and
as a group.
In this focal article, we provide some
basic elements and issues related to an
understanding of this new genre of ‘‘we’’
or collectivistic leadership and its differences
from more traditional and contemporary
leadership approaches. An overview of
five approaches to collectivistic leadership
is then presented—team leadership (e.g.,
Burke, DiazGranados, & Salas, 2011; Burke
et al., 2006; Day, Gronn, & Salas, 2004;
Kozlowski, Gully, Salas, & Cannon-Bowers,
1996; Mathieu, Marks, & Zaccaro, 2002;
Morgeson, DeRue, & Karam, 2010;
Zaccaro, Rittman, & Marks, 2001), network
leadership (e.g., Balkundi &Harrison, 2006;
Balkundi & Kilduff, 2005), shared leadership
(e.g., Carson, Tesluk, &Marrone, 2007;
Pearce, 2004; Pearce & Conger, 2003;
Pearce, Manz, & Sims, 2008), complexity
leadership (e.g., Marion & Uhl-Bien, 2001;
Uhl-Bien & Marion, 2009; Uhl-Bien,
Marion, & McKelvey, 2007), and collective
leadership (e.g., Friedrich, Vessey,
Schuelke, Ruark, & Mumford, 2009;
Yammarino et al., 2010a, 2010b). For each
approach, primary notions and elements,
key constructs and levels of analysis, the
role of a focal leader, major operationalizations
and empirical results, and implications
for leadership development, assessment,

and practice are summarized. We then
discuss common themes across, and our
perspective on, the five approaches and
future directions for the realm of collectivistic
leadership science and practice.
Traditional and Contemporary
Leadership Approaches
To summarize traditional and contemporary
leadership science and practice in a
small space is a challenge, to say the least,
as numerous books (e.g., Yukl, 2009), handbooks
(e.g., Bass, 2008), comprehensive
review articles (e.g., Yammarino, Dionne,
Chun, & Dansereau, 2005), and entire
journals (e.g., Leadership Quarterly) are
devoted to the topic. Nevertheless, across
these multiple sources, leadership is typically
viewed as a leader-follower interaction
process in small groups and teams,
and sometimes dyads, that occurs in a particular
situation (context) where a leader
(e.g., superior, supervisor) and followers
(e.g., subordinates, direct reports) share a
purpose (vision, mission) and jointly accomplish
things (e.g., goals, objectives, tasks).
As such, leadership is often viewed as
an interaction between individuals where
there is some type of authority structure
or power differences (e.g., superiorsubordinate,
supervisor-direct report).
A general way to view the leadership process,
typically endorsed by most leadership
approaches, is that antecedents determine
leadership, which in turn leads to consequences
in various contexts (cf., Bass,
2008; Yukl, 2009). Most traditional and
contemporary approaches consider similar
antecedents, or precursors, of leadership
which are essentially underlying fundamental
human processes (e.g., affect, cognition,
and personality; attraction and exchange).
Consequences, or outcomes, of leadership
are essentially leadership effectiveness indicators,
both soft (e.g., satisfaction, commitment,
loyalty, cohesion) and hard (e.g.,
performance, absenteeism, turnover, stress,
safety) for leaders, followers, and their units.
In addition, this general leadership process
occurs within a context that includes, for

example, the unit’s norms and climate as
well as the organization’s culture and values
and, at times, various environmental factors
(see Bass, 2008; Yammarino & Dansereau,
2009; Yukl, 2009).
As such, in traditional and contemporary
work, leadership science and practice
have generally focused on the behaviors
of, and the perceptions of those
behaviors for, individual leaders (see Yukl,
2009). In today’s organizations, however,
whether business, military, governmental,
or not-for-profit organizations, the pace
of technological change, increased complexity,
competitive demands, challenging
economics, and risks involved in decisionmaking
have made it difficult for one individual
acting alone, or even with limited
interactions in formal units, to exert and
display effective leadership. In particular,
broader based and more comprehensive
leadership approaches that include formal
and informal higher levels of analysis (i.e.,
collectives) and that involve more extensive
multi-person interactions are imperative.
We call these approaches to leadership
Collectivistic or ‘‘We’’ Approaches
to Leadership
Collectivistic leadership approaches, as a
new genre, are offered in contrast to earlier
theories and models of leadership, both
traditional and contemporary, that focused
primarily on the efforts and effects of a sole
leader on team, unit, and sometimes organizational
outcomes. Cultural bias toward
heroic individuals (see Campbell, 1949,
2008) and mistaken assumptions often
made about the actual level of power
wielded by a given leader (see Bass, 2008)
led to a focus on how a leader affects change
in an outcome of interest (Yukl, 2009). In
contrast, in the newer approaches reviewed
here, leadership is viewed as a collectivistic
phenomenon that involves putting the
‘‘we’’ in leadership where multiple individuals
interact, through a variety of formal and
informal structures, broadly defined, and
take on a variety of leadership roles, both

formally and informally, over time. Also,
in collectivistic leadership approaches, traditional
power and authority structures are
often ignored, downplayed, bypassed, or
These leadership roles occur not only in
formal groups, teams, and dyads, but also in
larger, formal collectivistic structures such
as departments, functional areas, strategic
business units, networks of various types,
and multiteam systems. In addition, the
roles can include multiple informal relationships,
networks, and connections that
involve personal contacts both within the
unit and organization, but also that span
the organization’s boundaries. Moreover,
these formal and informal multi-level structures,
relationships, and roles can change
rather dramatically over time. As a result,
they are not necessarily static and linear
in nature, but rather are dynamic and nonlinear
and contingent on organizational and
environmental demands and the players
involved. These new collectivistic leadership
approaches also may require new types
of leadership operationalizations, methods,
interventions, and assessments for understanding
and enhancing leadership science
and practice.
Five collectivistic leadership approaches
are now highlighted. While there may
be other viable approaches that can be
considered collectivistic, the five we have
chosen for review serve to represent the
range of possibilities, as well as the breadth
and depth of current work in the genre
of collectivistic or ‘‘we’’ approaches to
Team Leadership
Developed from the more general research
literature on teams (e.g., Ilgen, Hollenbeck,
Johnson, & Jundt, 2005; Kozlowski & Ilgen,
2006; Salas, Sims, & Burke, 2005), team
leadership (e.g., Burke et al., 2011; Day
et al., 2004; Morgeson et al., 2010; Zaccaro
et al., 2001) is the process of identifying
necessary functions to ensure team effectiveness,
whether it is completed by one or

multiple members. It involves a team shared
mental model or complimentary mental
model, social influencing of team members,
multiteam systemswithin and across organizations,
and team processes over time (e.g.,
Marks, Mathieu, & Zaccaro, 2001; Mathieu
et al., 2002). A key assumption is that
‘‘teams as leaders’’ can accomplish things
that individual leaders cannot. Team leadership,
as presented by Day et al. (2004), takes
a unique approach in that they propose that
leadership is an outcome of team processes
rather than only an input to team processes.
Not only does leadership, via the focal
leader’s particular capacities (e.g., knowledge,
skills, and abilities), impact teamwork
and team learning, but teamwork and team
learning influence how the leadership process
is manifested within the team. Specifically,
team processes ultimately influence
team leadership via the leadership role that
is both shared and distributed.
To develop the team leadership approach,
Day et al. (2004) use the IMOI (inputsmoderators-
outputs-inputs) feedback loop
model summarized in Ilgen et al. (2005)
which expands the typical inputs-processoutputs
(IPO) of teamwork. The IMOI
approach is different in that potential moderators
and mediators are explicitly considered,
and it recognizes that outputs can
ultimately become inputs into the process.
In terms of team leadership, this view allows
for the consideration that leadership processes
can be both an outcome and an
input to team processes.
For team leadership, especially in highperforming
teams, there is a strong reliance
on shared mental models, as well as
shared knowledge and cognitions within
the team (Burke, Fiore, & Salas, 2003; Day
et al., 2004). Through team processes of
communication, face-to-face interaction,
and collaboration, there is considerable
knowledge acquisition and sharing in
teams. Knowledge and information sharing
lead to cognitive elaboration where new
knowledge structures are created and
old structures are modified (Yammarino,
Mumford, Connelly, & Dionne, 2010).
Over time, cognitive convergence occurs

where team members gradually acquire
enhanced overlap among their cognitive
structures. Shared cognitive structures and
knowledge, or shared mental models, can
then reduce variance in team performance,
enhance cohesiveness, build a positive
team climate, and promote successful goal
An extension of team leadership that
goes beyond the team level per se is multiteam
systems, which can emerge when
complex collective interactions are required
(e.g., Marks et al., 2001; Mathieu et al.,
2002). Particularly in situations that are
non-routine, unpredictable, involve rapidly
changing events, high decision urgency,
and inadequate information, leaders need
to leverage collectives that are ill-defined
and involve high levels of interdependence
both within and among various teams often
representing multiple embedding organizations
(see DeChurch et al., 2011). In this
case, multiteam systems are collectives that
represent the level of analysis above the
team level and below the organizational
level, but can span the boundaries of multiple
Multiteam systems are a network of
teams working toward one or more
common or collective goals (DeChurch &
Mathieu, 2008; Marks, DeChurch, Mathieu,
Panzer, & Alonso, 2005), often require
coordinated efforts among previously unacquainted
teams, and demand skill sets and
expertise that reside at the boundaries of
established teams brought together to handle
a unique challenge. As such, multiteam
systems are complex entities that involve
complex interactions, and vary in terms
of levels and configurations of interdependence,
temporal pacing, proximal goals,
and team permeability. These complexities
of multiteam systems thus present
both challenges and opportunities for better
understanding team leadership (DeChurch
et al., 2011; Mathieu et al., 2002; Zaccaro
et al., 2001).
There is a considerable amount of
empirical research in support of team
leadership approaches in general, and

some emerging empirical research supportive
of multiteam systems. The significant
base of empirical studies on team leadership
indicate a strong linkage between
this type of leadership and outcome variables
such as empowerment (Hiller, Day, &
Vance, 2006), potency (Sivasubramaniam,
Murry, Avolio, & Jung, 2002), team learning
(Burke et al., 2006), satisfaction and
efficacy (Kumpfer, Turner, Hopkins, &
Librett, 1993), members’ motivational
states and commitment (Chen, Sharma,
Edinger, Shapiro, & Farh, 2010), team
effectiveness and performance (Ahearne,
Mathieu, & Rapp, 2005; Mathieu, Gilson, &
Ruddy, 2006), and the role of training on the
accuracy of multiteam system mental models,
inter-team coordination, and multiteam
system performance (e.g., DeChurch &
Marks, 2006). Although results suggest that
the composition of individual capabilities
of team members can translate into higher
effectiveness (Millikin, Hom, & Manz,
2010), within-team and especially crossteam
processes have been emphasized as
essential determinants of multiteam system
performance (DeChurch et al., 2011; Marks
et al., 2005). Burke et al. (2011) provide a
recent comprehensive review of team and
multiteam systems leadership, as well as
future research guidance in this area.
Given the extensive empirical work on
teams and multiteam systems, there are
some implications of the team leadership
approach for leadership practice.
In terms of professional practice, managers
should understand that they can
increase team performance by using distinct
strategies to enhance individual and
team empowerment (Millikin et al., 2010).
Literature suggests that the role of leadership
in a team context is to guide
team experiences that facilitate the development
of teamwork skills, use natural
variations in team tasks to create learning
experiences for team members (Kozlowski
et al., 1996), and shape certain aspects

of the work environment (Mathieu et al.,
Because development and mentoring
activities are essential to team success, leadersmay
serve as coaches to teams, as well as
promote the idea of internal team members
fulfilling team leadership needs (Morgeson,
DeRue, & Karam, 2010). More experienced
team members in general, regardless of formal
work status, should be encouraged
to exchange advice, teach skills, and be
role models for others. Empirical studies on
multiteam systems also suggest that leaders
operating in such environments would
benefit from understanding how to integrate
the overall system with the external
environment and how to apply different
types of functional behaviors as a basis
for leader training (DeChurch et al., 2011).
Moreover, there are cases when interventions
on team leadership effectiveness
are required, so it would be useful for
practitioners to identify the particular contexts
in which their interventions would
bring desirable effects (Sivasubramaniam
et al., 2002). As such, practice implications
from prior studies are relevant
for areas such as team and multiteam
based standard operating procedures, selection,
assessment, as well as training and
Further, from a multiteam systems perspective,
it is also important from a practical
standpoint to consider that there may be
multiple leaders involved in system performance.
Multiteam systems composed of
several component teams may have both
a system-level leader as well as component
team leaders who must decide
how to coordinate leadership responsibilities
to achieve both component team and
system-level goals (Zaccaro & DeChurch,
in press). Thus, different forms of leadership
may emerge, such as the rotation
of leadership among individuals, the
simultaneous enactment of different leadership
behaviors, or the distribution of
responsibilities to different leaders. In practice,
these different leadership forms may
be challenging to coordinate and, therefore,
should be addressed early and be

based upon multiteam system attributes and
What’s Missing?
In terms of conceptual implications and
future directions derived from the empirical
literature on team leadership, including
teams and multiteam systems, exploring
‘‘team leadership theories’’ as opposed to
‘‘theories of leadership’’ applied in team
settings seems important. As such, scholars
should not be ‘‘transporting’’ traditional
theories of leadership from the individual to
the team level. Moreover, since few multilevel
theories of team leadership have been
advanced thus far, future studies should
focus on addressing this issue and more
explicit multi-level designs and analyses
should be employed. It is also important to
identify new dimensions of team leadership
and explore the coherence of team mental
In addition, the findings from prior
research suggest that the area of multiteam
systems leadership is in an infancy stage and
the construct of multiteam systems itself is
still being shaped and refined. However,
the field is gradually moving forward
and currently emphasizes the importance
of a dual focus of multiteam systems
leaders on performance management as
well as developmental activities. Research
has begun to examine these challenges and
how they can be mitigated, as well as
to identify the areas in which multiteam
systems leadership is different from the
broader team leadership literature.
Network Leadership
Network theory and analysis (Balkundi &
Kilduff, 2005; Balkundi & Harrison, 2006;
Brass, 1984; Brass, Galaskiewicz, Greve,
& Tsai, 2004) provides a perspective
on leadership as it occurs within the
context of a social system. Network theory
addresses the process by which leadership
emerges and operates within a social

system, and asserts propositions about a
leader’s ability to perceive and interpret
characteristics of a social network and the
relevant outcomes of this social cognition
(Balkundi & Kilduff, 2005; Balkundi &
Harrison, 2006). A key assumption is that
leadership emerges from a relatively stable
network of social exchanges. Network
theory, however, is primarily developed
as a leader-centric approach since the
antecedents are viewed relative to the
leader’s perceptions of the network and
position in the network, and the outcomes
are a result of the leader operating within
the social network. Moreover, the network
is typically assumed to be static (see Brass,
1984; Brass et al., 2004).
In developing their model, Balkundi and
Kilduff (2005) begin with a micro perspective,
focusing on the leader’s social
cognition (network acuity), and then move
outward to evaluate the leader’s personal
network (ego network), the leader’s position
within the organizational network (organizational
network), and ultimately the
leader’s position within networks external
to the organization (inter-organizational
network). These four levels of network factors
then can impact leader effectiveness
expressed in terms of various outcomes at
the organizational level (survival, growth,
and innovation) and intra-organizational
level (coalition building, mentoring distributed
leadership or developing the social
networks and distributed leadership abilities
of others, and brokering).
Three characteristics of the individual
leader’s close or ego network are proposed
by Balkundi and Kilduff (2005) to influence
outcomes—density of the network,
range of individuals within the network,
and degree of cohesion within the network.
The leader’s centrality position within
the organizational network is also proposed
to have an impact on outcomes (Balkundi
& Kilduff, 2005). An assumption underlying
this characteristic is that there is only
one main node within the network that the
leader occupies. With regard to the interorganizational
network, the leader alters the
network by engaging in boundary-spanning

or representation of the organization to the
community of organizations, connecting
previously unconnected links. Moreover,
the leader may further develop the network
by engaging in alliances with others outside
of the organization. These behaviors related
to the operation within, and development
of, the social network are thought to result
in organizational and intra-organizational
There is considerable empirical research
in support of the network theory and analyses
in general and some empirical support
for network leadership. Several studies
have revealed that network structure is
related to team effectiveness and performance
(Mehra, Smith, Dixon, & Robertson,
2006). Densely configured interpersonal
ties lead to better attainment of goals as well
as higher commitment of the team members
to stay together. Moreover, Brass et al.
(2004) have indicated the relative positions
of employees (leaders) within communication,
friendship and workflow networks are
strongly related to individual perceptions
of influence. Other research has established
the relationship between leadership
emergence in team networks and individual
characteristics such as team member
network centrality (e.g., Neubert & Taggar,
2004). Studies suggest that teams with leaders
central in teams’ intra-group networks
and teams central in inter-group networks
attain higher performance (e.g., Zohar &
Tenne-Gazit, 2008).
At the individual level of analysis, some
authors have analyzed the linkage between
structural position within the organization
and influence (e.g., Brass et al., 2004),
while others have focused on the emergence
of leadership in team networks and
how it relates to individual characteristics
such as team member network centrality
(e.g., Neubert & Taggar, 2004). At the team
level of analysis, social network analysis
has been used to examine how team effectiveness
relates to members’ and leaders’
social network structures (e.g., Brass, 1984),
how the network structure of leadership
perceptions is linked to performance, and
how distributed leadership, depending on

structural characteristics, can help or hinder
team performance (e.g., Mehra et al.,
2006). Kilduff and Balkundi (2011) provide
a recent review of these and related issues
for network leadership.
Empirical research on network theory and
analysis has revealed interesting findings
that are likely to have an echo in the managerial
world. While the network approach
may lack some of the collectivistic qualities
of the other types of leadership analyzed
(e.g., networks are assumed to exist, remain
stable over time, and are based on the
assumption that there is a single leader
acting within the network), network theory
could be useful in selecting the best
candidates for inclusion in a collectivistic
leadership effort and for interpreting the process
by which social relationships are established
and developed within groups, teams,
and networks. This may include determining
which leaders most accurately perceive
network characteristics (particularly perceptions
of the structural patterning), would
augment the network structure (e.g., bridge
cleavages), and are the hubs or in positions
of centrality within the organization.
This would identify leaders that represented
distinct networks, provide access to unique
information and social capital, add to the
range of network connections, and would
help reduce the adverse effects of cohesion
(e.g., group think). For instance, if
a cleavage, or schism, is observed within
an organization, it may be beneficial for
leaders that represent each faction to be
included in the larger collective effort.
The range of the leader’s ego network is
also an important concept because utilizing
a collectivistic approach can essentially
increase the range of the leadership role in
much the same way as increasing the range
of the network for an individual leader. Similarly,
in increasing the range and breadth of
individuals and individual perspectives that
may influence the leadership role fulfilled
by a collective, the pressures of a cohesive
social network may be reduced. In other

words, the decision making pressures and
restrictions that result from a tight network
that reinforces a single perspective would
be relieved via the implementation of a collectivistic
view that employed leaders from
varying networks. Likewise, it may be beneficial
to use leaders from multiple areas of
centrality within the organization, should
they exist.
If additional empirical research is supportive
of network leadership, there are
some additional implications for leadership
practice. In particular, there are several
characteristics of individuals within
networks that are relevant for managing
network change. Actor characteristics (e.g.,
personality, work unit) can have an impact
on changes in interpersonal, inter-unit and
inter-organizational networks; some actors
are critical for some functions and ties; and
networks change as critical actors come and
go. Also, gender has a significant impact on
different types of networks in relation to
team members’ centrality to leadership.
Beyond network members’ characteristics,
managers should also take into
consideration several task related characteristics
(e.g., degree of task uncertainty
and task structure) as well as organizational
ones (e.g., resources) that can be
sources of change in networks. Furthermore,
it is important from a practical perspective
to consider that leadership may
come from either the formal leadership
network or emergent informal leadership
networks. Managers must be aware that
these informal networks can serve to support
an organization and provide additional
backup support to formal leaders, and that
these support systems can enhance performance.
However, they can also undermine
the authority of formal leaders if there is
disconnect regarding how tasks should be
performed. These notions are thus relevant
for areas such as leader and network based
standard operating procedures, selection,
assessment, and training and development.
What’s Missing?
In terms of future research suggestions
for network leadership, it is important

to highlight the role of time in social
networks, cross-level network change, team
performance, and the need for more
longitudinal research exploring changes
in interaction patterns. From a levels-ofanalysis
perspective, many of the general
network empirical studies and the few
studies of network leadership have typically
explored constructs and relationships at
individual and team levels. Clearly, beyond
these levels, a recommended avenue for
future network leadership studies is to
incorporate a network level of analysis
per se into this research stream. Moreover,
exploring relationships at multiple levels
is recommended for network leadership
theory as well, looking at cross-level effects,
for example, of individual actors on the
Other directions for network leadership
include building theory that simultaneously
accounts for attribute and structural influences
on team or network effectiveness,
as well as analyzing how certain network
structures (e.g., centrality) moderate the
effects of other network properties (e.g.,
network density). Additional directions for
future research could include team or network
size and various substitutes for leadership
that may also influence the link
between the structure of leadership networks
within a team and the team’s performance.
Moreover, understanding how
the network of leadership perceptions looks
within a team could provide valuable information
for the design of necessary interventions
(e.g., encouragement of formal team
leaders to find ways of sharing leadership
or allocating resources and decision rights
within a team).
Shared Leadership
Shared leadership (e.g., Carson et al., 2007;
Pearce, 2004; Pearce & Conger, 2003;
Pearce et al., 2008) is an approach that
views leadership as a shared responsibility
among team members, where a team
is viewed quite broadly, both formally

and informally. A key assumption is that
leadership is a set of role functions that can
be accomplished by a variety of individuals
in various ways. Shared leadership suggests
that leadership might be distributed around
the team equally, unilaterally, or in any
number of ways; and decisions and actions
made by the team are not the result of a
single leader acting toward the team. In
this way, leadership cannot be separated
from its social system dynamics (Gronn,
Given the lack of prior work, the extent
to which leadership can be shared, the
conditions facilitating the success of shared
leadership, and the implications these two
unknowns have for organizational structure
are currently unknown. While more
theory development and research is necessary
to answer such questions, initial
attempts to develop models of shared leadership
show promise (Gronn, 2002; Pearce,
2004; Pearce & Conger, 2003; Pearce et al.,
2008). Shared leadership has been successfully
applied to self-managed teams,
executive teams, and democratic organizations.
Aspects of shared and distributed
leadership have also appeared in research
on followership, as well as organizational
change. Leadership as a shared process is
also being studied in the context of social
Shared leadership includes several key
variables, one of which is team empowerment.
While complete control of power
cannot often be relinquished in the chain
of command, it may be of interest to at
least consider how much, when, and how
members might be empowered to complete
tasks. This shift of power is inherent
in the definition of shared leadership. The
makeup of teams is another important construct
because shared leadership concerns
all people in a team. Special attention must
be paid to who holds what knowledge,
skills, abilities, and expertise in what position
of what team. The right people need
to be tapped at the right time in the correct
manner in order for a team to be successful.
If the requisite team member or resource is
unavailable at that critical moment, shared

leadership will not be able to overcome
such adversity.
In addition, shared leadership necessitates
sharing information in an accurate and
timely manner, something of paramount
importance when operating in dynamic
environments and shifting power among
team members. Also, the distribution of cultural
values can have an effect on how well
information is shared and when that occurs.
Expending extra effort communicating cultural
values in an effort to ensure similar
values across an organization may be of
value when implementing shared leadership.
Doing this will eliminate problems
associated with diverse values interfering
with daily operations. Likewise, tasks that
are inflexible or uninteresting will make
shared leadership unnecessary or irrelevant.
Tasks may need to be designed in such a
way to allow for the shifting of responsibilities
as situational constraints and cues
There is some limited empirical research
in support of the shared leadership
approach. The majority of this research
is at the team level of analysis, as this
type of leadership is viewed as a teambased
collective phenomenon, and has the
recurring theme of examining shared leadership
in comparison to traditional models
of hierarchical or vertical leadership (e.g.,
Ensley, Hmieleski, & Pearce, 2006; Pearce
& Sims, 2002). These studies typically look
at management teams and the outcomes
generated by either hierarchical or shared
leadership. Outcomes of shared leadership
that have been examined include performance
and effectiveness (Ensley et al.,
2006; Pearce & Sims, 2002); use of leadership
behavior, autonomy, and patient outcomes
(George et al., 2002); and reliability
of performance and novice team member
skills (Klein, Ziegert, Knight, & Xiao,
2006). Less research has been conducted
on antecedents to shared leadership. Carson
et al. (2007) examined internal team
environment, shared purpose, social support,
voice (or input into how the team
carries out its purpose), and external coaching.
These antecedents were found to be

predictors of shared leadership emergence
within a team. Pearce and Conger (2003)
and Pearce (2004) offer reviews of shared
leadership which address many of the theory’s
dimensions and current state.
If additional empirical research is supportive
of the shared leadership approach, there
are some implications for leadership practice.
In terms of professional practice, the
current literature supports the idea that the
use of shared leadership is a good predictor
of desirable outcomes, such as increased
team performance and effectiveness. Current
organizations may wish to rethink their
organizational structure in light of such
evidence (e.g., creating social democratic
organizations); and new organizations may
make use of shared leadership as well, as
it seems that shared leadership may play
an even greater role in new ventures (e.g.,
entrepreneurial and dotcom organizations).
Organizations may also want to consider
combining vertical or hierarchical and
shared leadership structures, as these two
together have been shown to positively
impact performance in particular. Other
proponents of using shared leadership will
be interested in its use as a deterrent of
corruption among leaders (Pearce et al.,
2008), something very critical in today’s
organizations. In switching to a structure
of shared leadership, certain factors,
such as role complementarities (Crevani,
Lindgren, & Packendorff, 2007; O’Toole,
Galbraith, & Lawler, 2002; Perry, Pearce, &
Sims, 1999), can also increase the possibility
of success for a combination of leaders.
What’s Missing?
In terms of future research on shared leadership,
there is a need for additional research
in general. Very few empirical studies exist
in this area and more are required in order
to expand knowledge on the subject. One
important aspect of this future research will
be to shift from focusing on leaders per se

to focusing on collective leadership activities.
Specifically, research is needed on
how shared leadership is developed and for
what boundary conditions is it considered
effective. Given that hierarchical or vertical
leadership and shared leadership are
not necessarily mutually exclusive, there is
a need for future work on the interaction
between these two types of leadership.
Complexity Leadership
Complexity leadership (e.g., Lichenstein,
et al., 2006; Marion & Uhl-Bien, 2001;
Uhl-Bien et al., 2007; Uhl-Bien & Marion,
2009) is a non-linear dynamics based
approach which cuts across a variety of
complex dimensions and interactions over
time. A key assumption is that leadership
is a socially constructed phenomenon.
This approach appears to be a natural
progression from relational leadership (see
Uhl-Bien, 2006). Taking a relational perspective,
Uhl-Bien (2006) views leadership
as a social construction process, or a social
influence process, through which emergent
coordination and change are constructed
and produced. In this case, social reality
lies in the context of relationships (e.g.,
relational constructionism); and relationships
are both an outcome of the process
and a context for action. Consideration of
relational dynamics over time could then
lead one to more complex interactions and
As such, the complexity approach, as
proposed by Uhl-Bien et al. (2007), asserts
that leadership takes on several forms in
a complex system of interactions and the
desired outcome is organizational adaptability,
learning, and creativity. At the
foundation of the approach are complex
adaptive systems which are dynamic, open
systems of connections between agents that
are interdependent and bound by a common
goal or need. There are interactions
or engagements between agents that cause
information to flow between individuals;
and interdependency creates pressure on

those agents to act on the information and
exchange knowledge.
Emerging out of these complex adaptive
systems and the flow of information and
knowledge are three forms of leadership
(see Uhl-Bien et al., 2007). First, adaptive
leadership is defined as an informal process
that emerges out of the interaction
of agents with different knowledge, goals,
values, beliefs, and perceptions. Second,
enabling leadership is a set of behaviors
or actions taken to encourage the interaction
of agents to increase coordination
and interdependence between agents with
relevant knowledge. Third, administrative
leadership is the more conventional, formal
version of leadership. Enabling leadership
is proposed to serve as moderator between
administrative and adaptive leadership by
modifying some of the authoritative ‘‘topdown’’
control to allow for themore organic
flow of information and interaction that
gives rise to adaptive leadership.
Ultimately, adaptive leadership should
lead to an open flow of ideas and knowledge
which allow the organization to be
more adaptable, have a greater learning
capacity, and increased creativity. While
this approach proposes that an open, complex
system will foster greater creativity,
research on creativity consistently indicates
that creativity is more likely in a system
with structure and a foundation on which
to build. Moreover, it may be very difficult
to measure and assess elements of this
approach overall, but assessment of subprocesses
may be possible, especially if a
methodology that is particularly amenable
to testing this approach is developed. This
is particularly important as the complexity
leadership approach considers longitudinal
and shifting aspects of the leadership process.
Nevertheless, in terms of complexity
leadership, the concept of an interactive
system in which information and knowledge
is exchanged to attain a common
goal is relevant given that collectivistic
leadership requires and will be more effective
in contexts in which there is more
frequent interaction and high interdependency
among members

To date, there are no published empirical
studies of the complexity leadership
approach, but there are some preliminary
suggestions of how to proceed with testing
this approach. Such research will need
to focus on the dynamic patterns that exist
among and within organizational systems
and on the mechanisms by which change
occurs. The patterns, as well as possible
pattern of patterns, to which organizational
complex adaptive systems gravitate may
yield a wealth of new information. From
these patterns, research such as determining
what factors contribute to a particular
type of complex adaptive system can be
conducted. Research into the mechanisms
of change also will shed some light on
how a system moves from one stable pattern
to another (Marion & Uhl-Bien, 2001;
Uhl-Bien et al., 2007).
If empirical studies are ultimately conducted
that are supportive of the complexity
leadership approach, then there would
be some implications for leadership practice.
In terms of professional practice, one
aspect that organizations may find difficult
in switching to an organizational structure
that uses complexity leadership is the idea
of ‘‘managed chaos.’’ This notion represents
the tension between the need for structure
and the desire for creative chaos. The notion
of chaos, in general, is uncomfortable to
many people and organizations because
of the inherent lack of control. However,
complexity leadership theory aims to aid
organizations by helping them find this balance
(Uhl-Bien & Marion, 2009).
Another uncomfortable realization to
some will be that leadership is not a person
or even a formal role, but is actually a
collective phenomenon of a complex adaptive
system that may be socially constructed
(Marion & Uhl-Bien, 2003). Organizations
requiring adaptation for success may therefore
need to come to terms with this concept
and adjust organizational climate and
culture accordingly to accommodate such
a perspective. Moreover, this adjustment,

from a complexity leadership perspective,
will likely require a considerable degree of
agreement or consensus, often difficult to
achieve, for the ‘‘social construct’’ to be
viable, endorsed, and become the basis for
collective action and practice.
What’s Missing?
In terms of future research on complexity
leadership, there is much to be done due
to the current lack of empirical research.
Preliminary suggestions of how to proceed
with testing complexity leadership
revolve around two methodological strategies,
which can be proposed to accurately
capture the nature of these mechanisms.
The first strategy uses qualitative procedures,
which have been used in other
complexity studies and allows temporal
evaluations. The second strategy uses computer
modeling and simulation procedures,
such as agent-based modeling and systems
dynamic modeling, which other complexity
studies have also utilized. In performing
such modeling procedures, common practice
is to determine certain characteristics
of a collective and to use that data as the
initial conditions of a simulation.
To collect such data, complexity theory
researchers will need to make detailed
observations over a period of time of
multiple complex interactions. As such,
there are many directions that future
research could take, and many questions
posed by the current literature could
be answered using the aforementioned
research strategies. A majority of the
future research areas could revolve around
patterns and mechanisms as well as
the emergence of new types of social
structures and new nodes in a social
network from a leadership event, dynamic
organizational capabilities, and the use of
new organizational strategies.
Collective Leadership
Collective leadership (e.g., Friedrich et al.,
2009; Yammarino et al., 2010a, 2010b)

is a team- and network-based cognitive
approach that involves formal and informal
levels of analysis and shifts of these
multiple entities over time. A key assumption
is that leadership is a given where
leaders direct adaptive responses to change
or crises through others. Collective leadership
focuses on units, teams and networks,
rather than solely on the skills of individual
leaders, and is the utilization of expertise
from multiple sources in a timely fashion to
arrive at an effective resolution of unique,
rapidly emerging problems. Such leadership
requires adaptability and the pooling
of information and skills to accomplish
missions; leadership becomes a collective
or team- and network-based organizationwide
Collective leadership is a dynamic leadership
process in which a defined or focal
leader, or set of leaders, selectively utilize
skills and expertise within a network,
and across levels of analysis and hierarchical
levels, effectively distributing elements
of the leadership role as the situation or
problem at hand requires. Leaders seek to
create and exploit a network of personal
relationships and relationships established
by the members of their team and network.
These formal and informal networks
of relationships provide the leader, and
associated team members, with enhanced
expertise. In complex environments subject
to rapid change, multiple leaders operating
in a collective fashion and with teamand
network-based approaches are critical
to unit and organizational performance.
Beyond merely multiple individuals taking
on different roles, sharing responsibilities
and behavioral integration (including
information exchange, collaboration, and
joint decision making), based on selective
use of expertise within a broader
network, are important components of collective
leadership. The collective leadership
model includes four primary sets of constructs
(Friedrich et al., 2009; Yammarino
et al., 2010a). First, there are the key collective
leadership constructs: leader skills
(e.g., managing resources and interdependencies;
accuracy and schemas), leader

network (e.g., embeddedness, patterning,
centrality, alliances), leader-team exchange
(e.g., empowerment, collaboration, social
capital), communication (e.g., directions,
feedback, meaning making), problem setting,
team performance parameters (e.g.,
conflict management, clarifying objectives,
autonomy, information sharing), team affective
climate (e.g., justice perceptions), and
team network (e.g., embeddedness, patterning,
centrality). Second, there are the
base-line leadership processes of leader
structuring and maintenance of group, mission,
and team processes per se (e.g.,
cohesion, commitment, collaborative problem
solving). Third, there are outcomes,
both immediate (e.g., product and process
innovation, follower satisfaction and
trust, goal accomplishment) and long-term
(e.g., loyalty to leader and organization,
wellbeing, survival), as well as team performance
capabilities (e.g., team efficacy and
potency, conflict resolution, team collaboration).
Fourth, there is the organizational
setting and context which includes the professionalism
and expertise of workforce,
organizational structure, and work flow.
Because the exchange elements of the
leadership role require familiarity with others
in a network and the regular exchange of
information, communication is the currency
of collective leadership. Leaders exchange
information with their teams and networks,
which helps to develop team and network
parameters and affective climate and performance.
Leaders involved could be formal
or informal; teams involved may be formal
or ad hoc; networks identified could
be official (professional) or unofficial (personal
or social). In collective leadership,
there is meaning in the way information
flows through specific patterns of team and
network members; and it is conceivable
that a team, network, or organization could
develop their collective leadership capabilities
such that the appropriate collective
could be assembled rapidly in various situations.
As such, the collective leadership
approach can be viewed as an analog of a
flexible, multi-level, neuro-cognitive system

where neurons (people) can be activated
as the situation demands. Moreover, measures
for the fundamental bases of collective
leadership, collective leadership per se, and
elements in its nomological network have
been developed (Yammarino et al., 2010a,
2010b). In this approach, effective performance
is held to depend not only on characteristics
of the leader’s and team’s networks,
but also effective communication by the
leader, within the team, and from the team
to the leader, along with understanding
team performance parameters, formation of
a positive affective climate, and a viable,
organic, exchange between team members
and between leaders and team members to
shape team performance capabilities.
Empirical research related to collective
leadership is somewhat limited. Preliminary
results in support of the approach are
developed and provided by Yammarino
et al. (2010a, 2010b). A comprehensive
test of the model, with strong supporting
empirical evidence, is presented in the
work of Vessey et al. (2011). This study
used historiometric analysis to appraise the
collective leadership model, and results
showed that performance at multiple levels
was predicted by the model and that the
structure of the model may be plausible
in explaining the effect that collective
leadership has on leaders, teams and the
collective’s performance. A more in depth
presentation and review of the collective
leadership model and the methods used
to analyze it are also presented by Vessey
et al. (2011).
If empirical results regarding the collective
leadership approach continue to be supportive,
then there are some implications for
leadership practice. In terms of professional
practice, there are many areas in which
organizations attempting to foster collective
leadership could stage interventions to
aid in that process. One such intervention
would involve the understanding of networks
(both formal and informal) and the
abilities and skills that those in the networks

could provide. An increased awareness of
networks of leaders, teams, and the organization
itself would facilitate collective
leadership development.
As communication is a key to collective
leadership, another effective intervention
would be the increase of communication
skills throughout the organization so that
leaders, teams, networks, and various collectives
could access an individuals’ unique
and collective expertise and assign leadership
roles accordingly. Finally, leaders
and team and collective members should
have an understanding of the leader-team
exchange processes to aid in the distribution
of the leadership role (Friedrich
et al., 2009). Without these appropriate
and negotiated exchanges, both formal and
informal, within and among leaders, teams
and networks, collective leadership cannot
What’s Missing?
In terms of future research on collective
leadership, empirical work on certain components
involved in the collective leadership
model should be addressed to enhance
continued research on the general construct
itself. Key topics include communication,
social networks, leader-team exchange and
the relations between them. Other areas
that need further research are key situational
moderators between collective leadership
and collective performance, possible
interventions to facilitate collective leadership,
the effects of team networks and
their interactions on collective leadership,
followers’ unique skills and abilities, team
processes, the relationships between leaders
and teams, and focal leader’s (leaders’)
cognitive skills.
Perspective on Collectivistic or
‘‘We’’ Leadership
To provide a fuller perspective and some
speculation on the collectivistic or ‘‘we’’
approaches to leadership, we offer a
brief summary of the current state of
the five highlighted approaches. Then

looking across the approaches, we offer
some commonalities about the collectivistic
leadership approaches that include both
their strengths and weaknesses in terms of
science and practice.
Summary of Science and Practice
As a summary of our perspective on the
current state of collectivistic leadership,
key features of the five approaches are
presented in Table 1. As shown in the
table, each of the collectivistic leadership
approaches has a number of unique features
and aspects in terms of the primary
constructs and levels of analysis of interest,
the role of a focal leader in the approach,
the extent of empirical research to date
about the approach, and the focus of the
approach for managerial and professional
What seems equally clear from the table,
however, are the key communalities and
themes shared by these collectivistic leadership
approaches which suggest several
new directions for future research and
professional practice. In particular, all of
the collectivistic leadership approaches are
not solely or primarily leader-centric, not
constrained by formal power and authority
structure and relationships, not limited
to leader-to-follower interactions in small
groups and teams, involve more than typical
leader behaviors or team skills, incorporate
a variety of formal and informal organizational
and extra-organizational arrangements,
tend to be dynamic and non-linear
in nature, and strive to be responsive to
complex, rapidly changing and uncertain
problems and environments.
Strengths and Weaknesses in General
Collectivistic or ‘‘we’’ approaches to leadership
may result in some real shifts in
our understanding of leadership and in
attempts to intervene to improve the performance
and development of leaders, teams,
and organizations. Although we do not
believe collectivistic leadership is faddish,
we think these views of leadership should

be approached with caution because much
more empirical research validating them is
needed before they become the basis for
professional practice. From our discussion
above, and given empirical studies to date,
it should be clear that some approaches
(i.e., team and perhaps network leadership)
have more currently established validity
than others (i.e., collective and perhaps
shared leadership); while others are essentially
non-tested to date (i.e., complexity
The conceptualizations of collectivistic
leadership are promising and, as is typical,
are ahead of the empirical research
and a full understanding of the implications
for professional practice. Moreover,
the relevance and application for these
approaches might be greater in some contexts
(e.g., organic, flatter, social democratic
and newer organizations) or environments
(e.g., rapidly changing and dynamic ones
like military and high technology settings)
than in others (e.g., traditional hierarchical,
bureaucratic, mechanistic and established
organizations). As such, we do
not see collectivistic or ‘‘we’’ leadership
approaches as replacing, always and everywhere,
more traditional or contemporary
leadership approaches. Rather, collectivistic
leadership approaches can complement
or substitute for these other approaches in
particular contexts (as suggested above) or
at various times (e.g., crisis situations).
In addition, the integration of elements
or aspects of these various collectivistic
leadership approaches may be possible
for a more comprehensive view of ‘‘we’’
leadership and practice. In this way, the
weaknesses of one approach can be offset
by the strengths of another. This may
also provide a way to address some key
limitations of collectivistic approaches in
general (e.g., emotions, collectivistic and
otherwise, are typically unaccounted for;
and processes for collective cognition formation
are underdeveloped) and enhance
their applicability for professional practice.
Table 1 displays some commonalities
and overlaps as well as differences
that may provide a starting point for such

an integration of collectivistic leadership
Strengths and Weaknesses in Science
There are some other common themes
which hold across the collectivistic leadership
approaches from a future research
standpoint as well. For example, current
or traditional leadership models tend to
focus more so on short-term outcomes,
both soft and hard, for a formal leader and
his/her direct reports or immediate followers
and for a specific or limited situation. The
potential of these collectivistic leadership
approaches is to add to or augment these
associations and also to predict a variety
of short-, intermediate-, and long-term outcomes,
both soft and hard, for the leader,
informal leaders, team and larger collective,
as well as for informal units, and for a
multitude of non-routine and unpredictable
Beyond the leader network or team
as in traditional or contemporary leadership
approaches, there is a potential
of the collectivistic leadership approaches
to help better understand the team network,
informal networks, and leader-teaminformal
network interactions. For example,
a leader with a strong formal network may
strengthen the team formal network and
vice-versa; and these may be enhanced or
inhibited by various informal leader and
team networks. Leaders may use their own
formal networks to expand their teams’ formal
networks, and may use their teams’
formal networks to expand their own formal
network; informal networks can then
help or hurt these activities and processes.
In addition, these collectivistic leadership
approaches are the result of several
processes, are dynamic and shifting, and
there is not a single pathway by which collectivistic
leadership may emerge. As such,
a single causal model or approach to collectivistic
leadership does not appear to exist;
and, as a result, it may be useful to view
collectivistic leadership in general and these
approaches in particular as a lens through
which various processes that may lead to a

leader, or team of leaders, networks, and a
network of networks selectively distributing
the leadership role as required based on
needs and expertise for a given problem or
situation. Thus, there are multiple pathways
with an array of the causal relationships
for future testing within the frameworks of
collectivistic leadership reviewed here.
Another interesting issue for all collectivistic
leadership approaches dealswith the
role of a focal (or formal) leader; and this
notion has implications for both science and
practice. In terms of research, a question to
pursue conceptually and empirically would
be: Does discussion of a focal leader per se
or the role of a focal leader even make sense
when a collectivistic leadership approach is
involved? At the extreme, it could be argued
that in a complete collectivistic approach,
everything operates at the collective level
of analysis, whether for formal or informal
collectives; and so any single focal leader
homogenizes into the collectives in which
he/she is a member. It is only the collective
that matters and single leaders ‘‘disappear’’
so to speak. Another way to think about
such a set of effects is that they hold across
levels of analysis, from the individual to
the collective; and thus parsimoniously we
observe the collective rather than lower
levels. In terms of professional practice,
this view would suggest that managerial
operating procedures as well as selection,
assessment, and development could be targeted
successfully and economically at the
collective rather than at an individual leader
or set of leaders. Clearly, the role of the
leader in collectivistic leadership requires
additional exploration.
In general, levels of analysis issues,
in both theory building and theory testing
for collectivistic leadership approaches,
require further attention. Given the number
and types (both formal and informal)
of levels potentially involved (e.g., individual/
leader, group/team, network, organization,
multiteam system), as well as
cross-level and multi-level effects, the
complexities of collectivistic leadership
can be extensive and even overwhelming,
especially for a novice in the area.

Conceptualization and rigorous operationalization
and testing that explicitly
incorporate levels of analysis and multilevel
notions are keys to clarifying and
advancing the literature on collectivistic
leadership. Insights gained from such
research will ultimately impact the practice
and development of collectivistic leadership
approaches at various levels, whether
viewed formally or informally, in and across
Strengths and Weaknesses in Practice
If these collectivistic leadership approaches
are important (empirically supported) and
(at least sometimes) augment, complement,
or substitute for traditional and contemporary
leadership approaches, then current
individualistic approaches to selection,
training and development, and performance
assessment in organizations may be inadequate
and incomplete. The shift from
leader-centric to collectivistic leadership
may require collectivistic selection, collectivistic
training and development, and
collectivistic performance assessment systems
to be implemented for successful
and effective performance of individuals,
teams, and organizations. There are several
overarching professional practice themes
that apply regardless of which theoretical
approach is considered. Furthermore, these
issues must also be considered when both
traditional vertical or hierarchical and collectivistic
leadership are enacted together
(e.g., a formal leader is supported by a team
of individuals who also take on leadership
In terms of selection, it may no longer
be relevant to only select a leader, but
instead, given the dynamic nature of work
environments, selecting multiple leaders or
individuals with leadership potential may
be most critical to organizational success.
As work environments become increasingly
distributed, diverse, and reliant upon virtual
technology, work is often accomplished by
teams or units that have members fully or
partially distributed across many locations
(Connaughton & Shuffler, 2007). Because of

this, teams may need multiple individuals
in these different locations to take on leadership
responsibilities. Therefore, it may
be necessary to consider selecting multiple
leaders in advance to accommodate
these types of work situations. Alternatively,
as informal leadership networks may arise
depending upon dynamics such as membership
change, task type, or member expertise,
a more fluid leadership structure may
be necessary so that leadership responsibility
can be transferred or reassigned based
on team needs.
Furthermore, the selection criteria for
leaders may be different for collectivistic
leadership environments. ‘‘Lone wolf’’ individuals
who want to have the sole responsibility
of leading and who have difficulty
sharing these responsibilities may in fact
hurt collective performance more than help
it (Foushee, 1984). Individual differences
in characteristics such as collective orientation,
or a preference for working with others
(Salas, Guthrie, Wilson, Priest, & Burke,
2005), may therefore need to be considered
when selecting individuals for situations
that may involve collectivistic leadership.
Additionally, individuals who are skilled at
boundary spanning and empowering teams
may also be best for collectivistic leadership
assignments, as these can help create
the enabling conditions necessary for effective
sharing of leadership responsibilities,
especially across both formal and informal
leadership networks (Marrone, 2010;
Vecchio, Justin, & Pearce, 2010).
Finally, a holistic approach may also
be necessary for selecting individuals to
operate in collectivistic leadership situations.
Collectivistic leadership may be
best performed by groups or teams with
a blend of expertise and traits that
can contribute to both the task-related
and relationship-based leadership behaviors
necessary for successful performance
(DeRue, Nahrgang, Wellman, &Humphrey,
2011). Thus, similar to team composition
(LePine, Buckman, Crawford, & Methot,
2011), it may be necessary to select
individuals with complementary knowledge,
skills, and abilities to create the

most effective environment for collectivistic
Once individuals are selected for collectivistic
leadership assignments or positions,
there are also several practical implications
for the development and assessment
of such individuals. First, it is important to
consider whether these individuals should
be developed individually or as a group
or team, collectively. Traditionally, leadership
development and assessment has
focused on developing leaders as individuals.
However, as previously mentioned,
it is important to consider the implications
of operating in collectivistic leadership
environments and how this may influence
developmental needs. Team development
interventions such as team building and
team training (Salas & Cannon-Bowers,
2001) may need to be considered for collectives
that need to work closely together to
enact leadership behaviors. Such interventions
can enhance shared mental models
and transactive memory systems among
members, and can help to foster the cohesive
climate that is necessary for individuals
to cooperate effectively in collectively leading
(Klein et al., 2009; Salas et al., 2008).
While these interventions are traditionally
targeted at improving teamwork and not
necessarily leadership abilities, having the
effective teamwork competencies in place
should help to foster climates where collectivistic
leadership may be enacted successfully.
Further, from a practical standpoint,
it is important to consider the interaction
of traditional vertical leadership and collectivistic
leadership (Pearce & Conger, 2003).
Moreover, the assessment of leadership
at the collective level should also be
considered by practitioners. Traditional
assessments of leadership may not be
effective, as they may not fully capture
the dynamics and behaviors necessary in
collectivistic leadership environments, such
as the rotating of leadership responsibilities
among members (Zaccaro & DeChurch,
in press). Furthermore, when informal
leadership is enacted by one or several
individuals to compensate for necessary
leadership behaviors not being performed

by a formal leader, traditional assessments
may not appropriately give credit to these
individuals acting as informal leaders. To
capture a more systemic understanding of
leadership as enacted by a collective, a mix
of individual and collective assessments
may therefore be necessary. Additionally,
the use of network metrics discussed
previously may better reveal how leadership
is structured and how it may change over
time, providing a better picture than more
traditional approaches.
The lack of rigorous empirical research on
collectivistic leadership in general and on
several aspects of the particular approaches
reviewed here, is the primary scientific concern
at this time. Theory in most (if not all)
fields is ahead of data. This is clearly the
case in the literature on collectivistic leadership.
We have many more ideas than welltested
ideas. Nevertheless, ideas must be
fully developed in a testable fashion in order
to build a more comprehensive and integrative
theory of collectivistic leadership. There
are several areas within these collectivistic
leadership approaches (e.g., communication
and information flows, leader-team and
team-team exchanges, social networks and
inter-network connections, role of informal
units, and the relationships among
these elements) that are lacking in empirical
research and should be explored in
future work. Moreover, established measurement
and operationalizations of collectivistic
leadership notions, that display
sound psychometric qualities, are rather
limited. After some initial measurement and
testing work is completed, and then further
validated and replicated, these results could
form the basis of enhanced managerial and
professional practice procedures as well as
the selection, assessment, and training and
development applications relevant for collectivistic
leadership approaches. In these
ways, and given our work here, we hope to
encourage both scientists and practitioners
to put the ‘‘we’’ in future leadership science
and practice.

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