When organizations seek greater effectiveness by shifting authority to team members, some leaders may find it difficult to share power, according to an Academy of Management Journal article.

“Leaders, through their experiences or watching other leaders, often think that a leader is the person who stands up and takes control of the situation and is clearly in charge. But when you’re trying to lead empowered teams, that’s just not the most effective way,” said Greg L. Stewart of the University of Iowa. “The most effective way to lead empowered teams is to get everybody involved, and to take advantage of the unique skills and abilities of all team members. That requires leaders to see themselves not so much as the person in charge, but rather the facilitator of others who have important skill sets.”

Stewart and his coauthors—Stacy L. Astrove of John Carroll University, Cody J. Reeves of Brigham Young University, and Eean R. Crawford and Samantha L. Solimeo, both of the University of Iowa—studied four-member care teams as the U.S. Veterans Health Administration (VHA) transitioned to empowered team structures in 2010 to boost service quality and efficiency. Doctors, nurse practitioners, or physician assistants led the teams. Members of the teams included registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and administrative associates (entry-level clerical employees without clinical training).

The authors found over the course of their three-year study that many doctors had difficulties leading empowered teams when it came to delegating.

Read more at AOM Insights