Collaboration-all hands in

The Very Real Benefits of Collaborative Leadership

Leadership has historically been unilateral – the Chieftain, the Monarch, the President – one person ruling over many. As our society evolves, so do our businesses and we begin to realize that the old ways are not necessarily best.

Today, more businesses choose to lead collaboratively, replacing the dictator with a democracy of sorts. What are the main concepts of collaborative leadership and how can your business benefit from updating its approach?

What is collaborative leadership?

Collaborative leadership is different than traditional leadership in that decision-making is farmed out across the business, rather than the responsibility of one person. In place of division, secrecy and authority, the emphasis is on teamwork, transparency and compassion.

Here are the top four traits of a collaborative leader:

1. Teamwork 

Traditional leaders believe power comes from a position of authority. In contrast, collaborative leaders believe power is greatest when coming from a collective team. Ideas and feedback are encouraged from the wider business and individuals are given more freedom with resources.

2. Transparency

Traditional leadership is concerned with guarding ownership of company plans and information, but collaborative leaders openly share information and knowledge with the whole company. This strategy allows staff throughout the business to contribute to improving business processes.

3. Flexibility

Traditional leaders believe in keeping a rigid role structure and hierarchy, whereas collaborative leaders encourage more flexibility within staff roles, allowing more movement horizontally across the company’s structure. This is facilitated by a more flexible performance review system.

4. Compassion

Traditional leaders believe in using authority to achieve goals and maintain standards, but collaborative leaders believe that the best results can be found from listening to what employees want and making sure staff feel happy with their work.

How can business benefit?

It’s all very well saying how nice it would be to work more collaboratively, but hasn’t business worked the old way for so many years for a reason? What are the actual benefits of taking this new approach?

1. Attract and keep younger workers

As Millennials have become the largest demographic in our working population, organizations that cater to their needs the best are likely to gain a substantial competitive advantage when it comes to recruitment.

A recent survey by Euromoney Learning Solutions found that Millennials expect a lot more from companies than the last generation, including many aspects of collaborative leadership, such as career progression, training opportunities, recognition and feedback, flexible hours and collaborative working.

2. Motivate your staff more effectively

It stands to reason that the more ownership staff members have over their projects, the more they’re going to care about them. If outcomes go well, they feel a greater sense of achievement, and if it goes badly they feel more responsibility for doing better next time.

Today’s workers are no longer interested in being given a task list and a deadline – they’re looking to take on responsibility, to play an active role in the decision making process and to have a level of freedom that makes them feel trusted.

3. Solve problems better and faster

As the classic saying goes, “two heads are better than one.” The fact is the more brainpower you put into solving a problem, the faster and better it will be solved.

This opinion is shared by Raj Tulsiani,CEO of Green Park and one of the leading figures in the UK’s senior interim management and executive search industries:

“Although empowering people into a diverse culture can take time and provide the CEO with more challenges than expected in a monoculture, the vigor of debate and quality of decision making is generally much more aligned to the complexity faced in fast-moving market places.”

4. Make your business more dynamic

The modern worker is much more likely to have flitted about in their career, performing many different roles, rather than just sticking to one path. Therefore, the modern business can capitalize on this by creating more fluid job roles.

One company that has taken this to heart isTestbirds, a crowdsourced software testing company. Philipp Benkler, co-founder, said:

“Instead of having concrete roles, you want to encourage a working environment where you draw the lines based on people’s skills. If a team is leading a certain department, instead of saying you’re in charge of this, this and this, while someone else now takes over these tasks, we prefer to divide responsibilities by your unique skillset and encourage people to consult and discuss with one another.”

5. Develop team spirit

Above all, leaders must unite their workforce, getting everyone behind the goals and aspirations of the company. To achieve this, the modern business must be transparent, show its values, lead with purpose, and demonstrate how it can be a force for good.

Collaborative leaders will spend time meeting their staff and really listening to what they have to say. This allows leaders to make a real difference to the day-to-day problems of staff, consequently helping them to become more engaged with the overall business mission.

 

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Sarah Willis is a finance and business writer working in Brighton covering a range of subjects including personal finance, start-ups, investment and green business.

  • Neal

    Very good article. I have been apart of some startups that embrace many of these characteristics but older companies find this approach challenging. http://cognitiveseller.com

  • Tim Nash

    Great post with lots of practical tips and ideas to adopt this leadership style and collaborate better – thx for sharing!

  • Rick Fairfield

    Great post- However, I am always leery of article mixing Leadership – the art of influencing people toward an objective – and Command and Control – the functions and authorities of governance and management. Collaboration is a frame of mind that can only be attained when it is understood that one needs another, and that one trusts another. It is entirely possible to use teamwork, transparency, compassion and flexibility in any traditional organisation, and yet still reap the benefits this article describes. For a real collaborative leadership to take place, any business will need three important systemic functions sorted, explained and communicated to the team, no matter what style of leadership is employed. Those were very well explained by Alberts and Hayes: What are the Decision Rights I have? What are the patterns of interaction that I can use? What are the communication rights existing between each of us?

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