Shared Leadership: When Cups Runneth Over

Each family arrived with their burdens and joy. The room filled with cancer, divorce, under-employment, stagnated careers, struggling children, successes, start-ups, deepening relationships, home improvements, recovering health, big accomplishments, and new beginnings. We spoke of none of that.

Technically it was a rehearsal dinner, we were eating pizza and rehearsing, although covertly, while the next day’s bride and groom were hanging elsewhere.

And so this Labor Day, I take a temporary diversion from our normal fare, and offer a story of successful shared leadership and joy, family style.

Shared Leadership: Family Style

Clear Vision

We were 2 dozen extended family members with a singular focus inspired by my cousin’s vision. We were working to master the “cup song,” cups in coordinated symphony to Adele’s Love song-– a stealth mission to “hijack” my cousin’s first dance halfway through.

Work Environment

kathy.pgMy cousin, Kathy, served as instigator and chief organizer. My aunt served as gatherer, and my uncle grilled pizza. The teenagers came well-rehearsed and served as teachers for the oldest and youngest among us. The project would culminate at a fancy downtown venue, we would not be banging cups in a barn. Stakes were high.

Shared Leadership

We had no project plan, but roles emerged. Each was encouraged to use their gifts. The crowd murmered. “Jared and Bethany, can you please slow it down and teach the grown-ups?,” Kathy, an elementary school teacher sensed the frustration of the little guys and snuggled up behind them to give them an easier role.

When I arrived, I was handed music I had never heard, and told I would be singing a capella, no mic. I quickly looked at my youngest cousin, Eric, “did you bring your guitar?” Shoot, okay, I have a dusty one in the basement. Can you come to our house to spend the night? Laura, an exec, realized we clearly were going to need a second rehearsal for this mushrooming project, and called the wedding venue for time and space before the event.


shared leadershipWe were creating music with one rehearsal for a crowd filled with professional musicians (the bride and groom are accomplished folk singers). We approached the project as a gift. Quality was important for sure, but we felt safe to go big. We knew our offering would be received in the spirit it was given. We could have easily talked ourselves out of this.


Suddenly we had text distribution lists to organize “emergency’ trips to the music store etc. We had a sleep over and breakfast with dozens of eggs. Those side trips were filled with wonderful time to catch-up on the rest of our lives. Somehow the bigger issues that hung heavy on our hearts were easier to share in this cup-induced cadence.


The bride squealed with delight. The groom thanked us sincerely. We have grown as a “team” and a family. We’re ready for the next engagement.

Do you have a favorite shared leadership memory? How can we bring more such shared leadership joy to our lives?

Posted in Employee Engagement & Energy and tagged .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells - building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. And then the 14 yr. old guitar player yelled at the professional singers in the group for not singing loud enough. Guess what? They started singing louder!

  2. Just wow. I don’t even know where to begin with my gratitude around this project. Thanks for documenting it so eloquently. There are MANY details here that I was completely unaware of.

    • Brian, you are an inspiring groom, musician, and wonderful human being. You married your soul mate. What’s more inspiring than that? Thanks for encouraging playful,musical lives. Namaste.

  3. Is there a you-tube video? Would love to see the action – almost as good as first hand! Was also looking for a comment on the early morning backyard zip line – now that was something to write about. Glad it was such a blast.

  4. Karen,

    WOW, thanks for sharing this with everyone. First, nice job on the singing.

    I loved the Leadership lessons you unpacked in this experience.

    I love more the lessons and memories you gave those kids.

    And finally, as a camp director who eats 3 meals a day for 2 months with 100 plus campers doing the cup thing…I can speak with authority after literally hundreds and hundreds of house of cup music exposure. You all nailed it!!

  5. Shared Leadership stories, this was a joy to read (and view)!! I saw many similarities to our normal fare within all of the fast-paced preparation, communication efforts, attention to detail, role definitions and so many more. Most impactful to me has to be, how rewarding it was after all the hard work poured into the project, priceless reactions of victory! It’s just as AMAZING to create the joys of shared leadership as it is to “Call it Out” when we observe it! Many lessons here. Congratulations to you and yours!!

    • Alma, Thanks so much. Always enjoy your comments. Yes, that’s what struck me… moving fast with the right spirit… so many similarities to our leadership worlds.

  6. Goes to show what can happen in a short period of time, with little to work with, and a cooperative environment.

    p.s. Typing this from the comfort of my home, stretched out on my comfortable couch, under a blanket, nursing the flu.

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