At the most fundamental level, collaboration comes from a Latin root that roughly means “to work with,” but there is more to it than that. People at truly collaborative organizations, for example, are empowered and engaged—they co-labour successfully, reach agreement, resolve differences, produce great products and meet customer and community needs in ways that may well be the envy of their industry, organization, and regional landscape.
What’s more, the most valuable organizations in the world—those entrepreneurial thinking companies that are making the biggest difference to our society, providing a positive impact to the environment and delighting all—are highly collaborative.
Collaborative leadership is at the center of an important shift in our business world increasingly moving away from autocratic leadership to more decentralized models which significantly create a new paradigm.
For many, the shift from command and control raises a continuing dilemma: How do you get things done and drive an organization forward when you’re forced to coax and convince?
I’m told, by some very reputed leadership consultants—the distinction lies at the heart of the answer: Collaboration is an essential tool for the new kind of entrepreneurial venture leader—the facilitative leader—one who engages relevant stakeholders in solving problems collaboratively and works to build a more collaborative culture in his or her community or organization.
The facilitative leader makes conscious choices about how much collaboration is appropriate for each decision and delegates accordingly. This leader is able to get more out of their organization, while staying on track and driving the intended strategy forward. This innovative leader is able to devise and articulate a vision of triple-bottom-line value that inspires and motivates internal and external stakeholders alike.
Leading and collaborating—wow, what a concept. As companies and organizations are urged to move to more agile, collaborative models, so too have they begun involving a variety of internal and external stakeholder in their overall strategies. Many forward-thinking organizations and the folks at the helm are taking into account how they affect the environment, communities and employees, as well as each other. When leaders use collaboration to plan, gain alignment and execute skillfully, they create value for all stakeholders within their sphere of influence.
So, how do we set the bar for all to build collaborative capability and capacity?
The key, it seems, lies in aligning our organization’s (whatever it be corporate, social, educational et al) direction, commitment and capability to create shared responsibility for the success of the organization.
(Note: The Okanagan Valley Entrepreneurs Society has recently completed an outstanding collaborative leadership process through the creation of a non-profit entrepreneurial corporate structure of close to 28 people led by a board,various chairs, a plethora of committees. And our team accomplished this with little pain and much joy thanks to the collaborative leadership of each member of the team.)
A sense of direction comes from a clear understanding of the strategic moment faced by the organization itself. What is the gap between where the company or organization is and where it aspires to be? What’s required to bridge that gap? Who could be involved in bridging that gap?
After establishing a sense of direction, one must focus on practices that invite enrolment in the change and commitment to its success. Now, please embrace this thought—the invitation extends beyond traditional organizational boundaries to include other business and social relationships and the broader community and region with its mesmerizing cadre of like or similar organizations. This bias for inclusion and involvement is at the very heart of the “ collaborative attitude” shared by high purpose companies and organizations.
OK then, direction says what we’ll do. Commitment says why we’ll do it. Collaborative organizations build their capacity and capability in working effectively together unselfishly and with a common sense of community purpose.
No individual organizational nor scorecard is necessary. What fun we could have with unbelievable outcomes if we operated in a constant cycle of sharing information, clarifying understanding, reaching agreements and implementing decisions.
The collaborative leadership and its true power perhaps with its most striking commonality lies just beneath the surface, between an original vision and a desired outcome.
All of us, in our individual and joint efforts, can tap the creativity in our minds and, combined with the power of collaboration—invent something original. We can leap into the void, exercise belief in our visions together, learn to trust each other and effectively engaging the relevant stakeholders, remain unafraid of the unknown.
As more entrepreneurial companies and organizations master these skills, the collaborative behaviours of each will become the model for success in the society around us.
Connecting stakeholders and practicing optimum involvement yields surprising and unbelievably satisfying results.