Do you head up a leadership team in which you feel like you’re doing most of the heavy lifting? If so, you may be suffering from the “one leader in a room” mindset where you believe there can be only one leader in the room at a time. As the formal leader, you alone are responsible for all of the team’s leadership tasks, including identifying the team’s direction and key goals, leading team meetings and managing challenging work relationships among team members.

In essence, you alone are the boat’s designer, captain and navigator, while the rest of the crew shows up to row. At some point on the journey you wonder, “Why aren’t they doing more?”

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, learn how to let go of this single-leader mindset—as described by business author Roger Schwarz—in order to allow your business to grow.

  • When your direct reports see you as the sole leader on the team, they see the team as your team, not their team.
  • Because you’re the one generating solutions, they have less ownership of the solutions.
  • Because you’re the one resolving conflicts among team members, the team members don’t have to take accountability for their own actions and work relationships.
  • Because you’re the central leader in all of these situations, you reinforce the idea that other team members need only play a support role. Their focus will be on accountability to you, not to the team.

Sound familiar? If you’re in this “one leader in a room” situation, you may take on more and more of the team’s leadership to compensate for the reluctance of your direct reports to assume leadership roles. Or you may decide to pull back on your leadership, waiting to see if team members step in to fill the vacuum. Both responses exacerbate accountability and commitment problems.

The “one leader in a room” mindset not only leaves you exhausted and the team alienated, it limits the range of potential results for the team and underutilizes team members’ capabilities. Sharing leadership involves having different team members take primary responsibility for captaining and navigating the ship at times, and involves everyone in reacting to problems and developing solutions.

If you want greater team commitment and accountability, raise the issue with your team. Describe your interest in having a team in which each member shares in the team’s leadership. Describe what you want that to look like and how you think it would create better results for the team. Contrast that picture with how you see the team currently functioning. Are they interested in taking on leadership roles? How do they see sharing team leadership contributing to results? What would need to happen for them to take on the shared commitment and accountability you want to see?

When you raise this with the team, you get to the heart of one of the issues that contributes to lower team performance. And you take an important step toward creating the team you need.

Source: Roger Schwarz is an organizational psychologist and president of Roger Schwarz & Associates (, a consulting firm that helps people get better business results and build stronger relationships, often in ways they didn’t think possible. He teaches, consults and writes about facilitation, leadership, managing change and conflict, and developing effective work groups. For more than 25 years, Schwarz has served as facilitator and consultant to Fortune 500 corporations; federal, state and local government agencies; and nonprofit organizations.