Collaborative Leadership

Delivering outcomes through teamwork​

Collaborative Leadership offers new perspectives, insights, and tools to complement past experiences and build thriving teams.

What is Collaborative Leadership?

More than simply leading through collaboration, Collaborative Leadership refers to the leadership of a process rather than people. That is, leaders with a collaborative leadership style invite the active contribution of every team member. By harnessing each individual’s diversity, they inspire them to apply their collective energy to produce something truly valuable.

“Collaboration needs a different kind of leadership; it needs leaders who can safeguard the process, facilitate interaction and patiently deal with high levels of frustration.”

“Collaborative Leadership”, David Chrislip and Carl Larson

Why Collaborative Leadership?

In the past, leaders often worked in silos, handling only the tasks that fell directly under their domain. Discrete tasks, linear workflows and command and control management dominated. Today, globalisation, technology transformation and increased data have presented us with multifaceted problems and sophisticated tools. As a result, teamwork, group problem-solving and shared outcomes predominate.

In less hierarchical structures, authority comes from relationships rather than position. While much is written about the importance of teams, to adapt to our changing world, leaders must reframe their approach to manage the complexity of content and tools. Adopting new and different leadership methods to embrace innovation, retain talent, and deliver the organisation’s purpose and goals.

Expectations of leaders and managers have changed as well. Management is now less about monitoring individual outcomes and more about managing team processes; less about directing and more about coaching; less ‘one size fits all’ and more agile and people-centric.

All this means a new set of skills to lead teams effectively. 

What does a great team look like?

Modern workers face a perfect storm. A lack of skills, longer workdays, overreliance on email and the ongoing juggle of digital tools increase stress and reduce well-being. 

Prioritising employee experience is critical, so collaborative teams leverage digital tools. For example, moving simple conversations into chat saves time and reduces email dependency. And by agreeing which tools to use when work becomes faster and it’s easier to switch off.

Is this your team?

Value of Collaborative Leadership

A key difference of Collaborative Leadership is it’s relational (collaborative) rather than positional (command and control). Supporting a process that allows for the inclusion of all stakeholders is valuable when the size and complexity of problems make it difficult for any individual alone to effect change.

Encouraging ownership of the collaborative enterprise, building trust, and minimising turf issues also leads to better information flow and more effective solutions.

Further, collaborative leaders tend to support new leadership within the collaboration and empower the group as a whole. This is especially important in hybrid teams, where developing leadership skills can be difficult.

Challenges of Collaborative Leadership

But sometimes a collaborative leadership approach isn’t appropriate. There are times when ‘command and control’ are necessary. For example, in military operations. But when it is appropriate, leaders need to be prepared for the challenges.

  1. It is more time-consuming as you must schedule for team decision-making and problem-solving. And while the outcomes may be better, the process can be intense.
  2. To hear all voices, you can’t expect harmony. Instead, embrace disagreement but ensure it is always constructive, on-task and polite.
  3. Sometimes, the team’s decisions will take you in the wrong direction. Course correcting takes effort and influence to ensure that you deliver the best outcome and keep your team with you.
  4. Leaders must suppress their egos. It’s not about you; it’s about what’s best for the team.

How can Collaborative Leadership help you improve team outcomes and well-being?

Tess Julian with leaders
Collaborative Leadership cover
Whitepaper (A DIY Approach)

How to incorporate Collaborative Leadership into your toolkit.

  • The benefits of Collaborative Leadership.
  • Collaborative Leadership as a driver of employee experience and leadership development.
  • The Collaborative Leadership Question Canvas to identify team strengths and priorities.
  • Practical steps leaders can take to develop specific attributes with individuals and teams.
  • The Collaborative Leadership Question Canvas (aligned to the Hargraves Collaboration Model).
A Facilitated Approach

To embed Collaborative Leadership habits.

Equip your leaders and managers with the skills and confidence to deliver outcomes and lead change.

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