Shared leadership is the capacity to jointly lead an organisation towards shared goals. The vertical traditional leadership model places emphasis on placing the leadership responsibility on one person – the top leader. The horizontal emergent leadership model, as embodied by the concept of shared leadership, proposes that effective leadership should be the responsibility of all managers, and, other staff members, irrespective of their ranks or titles. Within the context of both the vertical and horizontal leadership styles, which are meant to complement each other, the University of the Free State (UFS) Library and Information Services (LIS) begs to answer the following questions: Is there a common understanding by UFS LIS managers of what is meant by shared leadership in the delivery of services? What is the current perception of the contribution of shared leadership towards the success and achievement of goals? Does the UFS LIS present itself as a learning organisation affording all managers opportunities for growth individually and as a team of managers? Has the UFS LIS put organisational structures and communication avenues in place that enhances the sharing of information in a collaborative manner?
In adhering to a mixed method design, a self-administered questionnaire was designed as a tool for collecting data by means of qualitative and quantitative methods. The questionnaire had easy-to-follow instructions to maximise the same level of interpreting and understanding of questions. The purposefully selected sample included 12 managers and comprises of the Director, Deputy Directors, and Assistant Directors responsible for Sub-Divisions and Campus Libraries. The choice of participants was based on the fact that they all have management and leadership responsibilities within their own areas of specialisation, and are also required to provide leadership in the overall management of the UFS LIS.
Shared leadership has been proven to strengthen leadership projects, but at the UFS LIS the understanding and effectiveness of shared leadership has never been investigated. In this study the team will investigate the theoretical foundation of shared leadership as well as what it would entail to practice shared leadership within the UFS LIS management. This would inform the formulation of an action plan to be implemented to enhance service delivery at the UFS LIS. The initiative forms part of an action research (AR) project the management division of the UFS LIS has embarked upon. In adhering to the typical stages of plan-act-observe-reflect in AR, the aim of enhanced shared leadership in the LIS environment can be pursued. The significance of this study will be an enhanced awareness and use of shared leadership that can potentially lead to a clear understanding of the UFS LIS vision of excellence in all spheres of service delivery, and have a positive impact on stakeholder relationships.