Source: Claudia Lowry, South Africa
Collaborative leadership is a great way to increase an organisation’s competitive advantage in today’s highly networked and team-based business environment. Yet surprisingly few leaders have been trained to lead collaboratively – especially among those people who climbed the organisational ladder in a different era. Collaborative leaders recognise the importance of interpersonal relationships within a team, as well as the power of collaboration across various functions in an organisation to enhance success.
Good collaborative leadership almost always displays particular characteristics.
A collaborative leader seeks not to control, but rather to inspire others and work together as a team. People may follow your instructions because they fear being disciplined, but you can only get them to genuinely commit to a common goal by truly motivating and inspiring them – your vision must also become their vision.
The purpose of collaborative leadership: is to help the collaborative process to work, rather than to lead the people involved towards a particular decision or in a particular direction. The team considers the problem, decides what to do, and counts on the leader to help them focus their efforts.
Collaborative leadership means that the process of decision-making is truly collaborative – it does not have a pre-determined outcome when it begins. The desired end result is worked out among all the participants in collaboration.
The hallmark of a true collaborative leader: Collaborative leadership is also about breaking down walls and hierarchies, and instead building close, cross-functional relationships which are based on communication and trust. It takes having strong relationship skills, and a great deal of influence to be able to lead a horizontal team – one where the leader does not restrict their focus only to their team, but instead embraces their peers in the wider team.
Unless information is shared regularly and openly across an organisation, it is not possible to create an atmosphere of trust and collaboration. A collaborative leader ensures that a steady stream of information, updates and business intelligence passes across collaborative teams to facilitate better decision-making, and to improve agility.
When people are encouraged to openly voice their opinions it is natural that conflicts emerge. A collaborative leader understands that such constructive conflict is necessary for the growth of the organisation and for refining rough ideas and improving the end result. In constructive conflicts, the process becomes as important as the end result where individuals come together to redefine or strengthen their relationship for the greater good of the parties involved.
Here are 6 far reaching benefits of collaborative leadership:
Attracts and keeps top talent
The move to a more collaborative work environment has largely been driven by the Millennial generation’s preference for a team culture over a competitive one. By 2025 Millennials will have become the largest demographic group in our working population. Organisations that best cater to their work style are likely to gain a substantial competitive advantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining top talent.
Makes your business more dynamic
Collaboration allows leadership to draw upon the collective insight of the group, whatever that group may be. Instead of the leader being expected to be talented across several disciplines, they are permitted, within the team dynamic, to focus on their core strengths.
Problems are solved better and faster
“Two heads are better than one,” as the saying goes. The fact is that the more brainpower you put into solving a problem, the faster and better it will be solved. Working for each other by working with each other actually raises the bar. By the same token, when people are cut off from collaboration, progress doesn’t just slow down, it stops altogether.
Motivates the team
Today’s employees are not interested in being given a list of tasks and a deadline. They are looking to take on responsibility, to play an active role in the decision making process, and to be given a level of freedom that makes them feel trusted. It stands to reason that the more ownership an individual team member enjoys over a project, the more that person will care about the project outcome.
Collaborative leadership focuses on the development of leaders at all levels of the organisation. Everyone is expected to take responsibility – to lead, and everyone is developed to become a leader. Letting go of control and sharing power gives others the opportunity to step up and develop their own leadership skills.
Develops team spirit
Collaborative leaders unite their workforce, getting everyone behind the goals and aspirations of the company. Companies that encourage open, honest communication and foster collaboration are in a better position to have good teamwork among employees.