Collaborative Leadership

What is collaborative leadership?

The premise of collaborative leadership says: If you bring the appropriate people together in constructive ways with good information, they will create authentic visions and strategies for addressing the shared concerns of the organization and community.

Each component of the premise is important:

  1. You must bring the appropriate people together – the collaboration must be broadly inclusive
  2. You must bring people together in constructive ways – design the process so that it can deal with different understandings of the issues, varying degrees of trust, and so that the process encourages people to work together
  3. Good information is critical to good decision-making – Involve experts in the process as informers, rather than drivers of the process

Why do we need collaborative leadership?

Our traditional models of leadership do not serve us well, especially in our increasingly diverse and complex society. Our default position is often to simply avoid making a conscious decision. We choose to focus on a solution rather than a process that brings us to a solution. We can make conscious, inclusive decisions on a community issue – collaboration is a positive way to do this.

The pervasive concept of leadership is that of the heroic leader – they have a vision, they assert it, they persuade us, and they gain followers. Collaborative leadership turns that concept upside down simply by saying that if we bring good people together in constructive ways, we will be able to push forward. We need to remember that how we decide is as important as what we decide. The quality of engagement reflects the quality of our decisions, and ultimately, the quality of our outcomes.

It is important to remember that collaboration is more than a tool in a toolbag. When collaboration works, it reproduces and build the characteristics of civic community, allowing us to deal with future issues in constructive ways. Collaboration builds social capital. Collaboration is the new leadership.