This paper aims to advance understanding of the conditions under which shared leadership would contribute to successful outcomes in projects and factors associated with its development.
This is a conceptual paper that draws on existing research on shared leadership in teams and the literature on the characteristics of soft projects, to put forward a number of testable propositions to form the basis of future research in this area.
The assumptions underpinning style perspectives of leadership and their usefulness for projects are called into question given the ambiguity and complexity with which the majority of projects now have to contend. Instead, shared project leadership is suggested to be better suited to respond to the dynamic and changing circumstances characteristic of most projects.
Three major areas of research are proposed that focus on external factors enabling shared leadership, internal factors enabling shared leadership, and shared leadership processes. Longitudinal, qualitative studies that capture the contextual variables and conditions that influence shared leadership in projects are suggested to enhance our theoretical understanding of this systems‐level perspective on leadership.
Style leadership perspectives have dominated research on leadership in projects offering a parochial and narrow understanding of the contribution leadership perceived more broadly can make to the effectiveness of projects. The propositions put forward in this paper aim to extend our theoretical understanding of shared leadership specifically within project contexts.
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