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Contemporary issues in managing
Contemporary issues in managing

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3.2 Drawbacks of collective leadership

Despite the benefits, if used in a non-adequate way, collective leadership can be at times problematic in terms of efficiency in the decision-making process.

For example, in a moment of crisis which requires a very quick and major decision, it can be more efficient to have one specific individual in charge. If a pilot has identified that they cannot land at an airport in an emergency, it is likely that the pilot will be best placed in terms of deciding where to land, rather than consulting with the rest of the crew. In 2009, this was illustrated by a former US Airforce pilot landing his 148-passenger jet on the Hudson river, when trying to make it back to LaGuardia would have meant certain death (Pilkington, 2009). Similarly, the Paris Notre-Dame fire in 2019 was stopped because the individual supervising the firefighting operation – General Gallet – decided to sacrifice the roof in order to concentrate on the South Tower to prevent the whole structure from collapsing (Peltier, Glanz, Gröndahl, Cai, Nossiter & Alderman, 2019). If a collective had made this decision, perhaps the whole of the cathedral would have collapsed because it would have taken too much time. Sometimes, though, collective leadership actually works better, for instance if the operational leader is simply clueless about how to solve the crisis, or to prevent one individual making a mistake.

Furthermore, with collective leadership there is a danger of promoting a leaderist ideology that would help manipulate employees through telling them that if they are not leaders it is their responsibility (O'Reilly & Reed, 2010). In other words, organisations could make employees feel guilty if they are not leaders.