Co-Active Leadership for Assistants

As Assistants, we often find ourselves in roles that require us to support and collaborate with leaders from various departments and levels within our organisations. In this dynamic environment, traditional one-dimensional leadership models may fall short of addressing the complexities of modern workplaces. That’s where the concept of Co-Active Leadership comes in—a transformative approach to leadership that empowers us to thrive in this ever-evolving landscape.

The inspiration for this article stems from the insightful book “Co-Active Leadership: Five Ways to Lead” by Karen and Henry Kimsey-House. This book introduces a revolutionary paradigm shift in leadership that enables us to harness our collective potential, uplift others, and create impactful change.

So, what exactly is Co-Active Leadership, and how can we apply its principles as assistants to lead effectively and collaboratively?


The Co-Leader model emphasises shared leadership. Rather than a hierarchical approach, it’s about working with our colleagues, executives, and team members. As assistants, we can embrace this model by actively participating in decision-making processes, offering insights, and contributing our unique perspectives. By becoming co-leaders, we strengthen the overall team dynamic and encourage a culture of collaboration.

Leader from Behind

Leadership from behind involves providing support, encouragement, and guidance to others, allowing them to shine in their roles. As assistants, we can practice this approach by empowering our executives and team members to take ownership of their projects. By stepping back when necessary and offering guidance from the shadows, we create a nurturing environment that fosters growth and self-confidence.

Leader from the Front

Leadership from the front is about setting a compelling vision and inspiring others to follow. As assistants, we can embrace this model by championing the organisation’s mission and values. By taking the initiative to lead in our own unique ways, we become role models for others and ignite a sense of purpose within the team.

Leader from the Whole

Leadership from the whole involves understanding the bigger picture and recognising that every individual’s contributions are valuable. As assistants, we can apply this approach by fostering a sense of unity and inclusivity within our teams. By valuing diverse perspectives and ensuring everyone’s voice is heard, we cultivate an environment where everyone feels seen and appreciated.

Leader from the Dance

Leadership from the dance is all about adaptability and responsiveness. It’s like a dance where leaders move together, adjusting their steps based on the music’s rhythm. As assistants, we can embody this model by being flexible and agile in our roles. By embracing change and learning to navigate through uncertainties, we become adept partners in the organisational dance.

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Co-Active Leadership is a multifaceted approach that empowers us to be versatile, compassionate, and visionary leaders. As Assistants, we have a unique opportunity to apply these principles in our daily interactions, enabling us to support our executives and teams in their pursuit of success.

Here are some practical ways we can implement Co-Active Leadership as Assistants:

  1. Foster open communication and active listening to truly understand the needs and goals of our colleagues.
  2. Encourage a culture of trust and psychological safety where team members feel comfortable expressing their ideas and concerns.
  3. Embrace diversity and inclusivity by creating an environment that values different perspectives and experiences.
  4. Empower others to take the lead when appropriate while offering support and guidance from the sidelines.
  5. Embody a growth mindset by continuously seeking learning opportunities and adapting to new challenges.

Co-Active Leadership offers a refreshing and transformative approach to leadership that recognises the power of collaboration, empathy and shared responsibility. As Assistants, we are integral in driving this paradigm shift within our organisations. By embracing the five ways to lead, we can unlock the full potential of our teams, support our executives in their leadership journeys, and ultimately create a thriving and harmonious work environment.