Collaboration is the biggest buzzword in business right now. Along with company culture, it is the zeitgeist of the modern business landscape. In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, agile, innovative businesses that are able to attract and retain talent, are those with the greatest chance of success.
Collaborative leaders understand this. They know instinctively that everyone in the organisation has something to offer. They believe in their human assets and create an environment that allows employees to offer ideas and opinions of their own.
You will only find truly collaborative leaders in organisations with strong and positive cultures. They go hand in hand. This is because real collaboration can only happen in a psychologically safe space where people feel respected, supported and comfortable speaking up.
So, what is it about collaborative leadership that helps a business succeed? Here I’ll be putting collaboration under the spotlight and exploring the reasons why collaborative leadership is so effective. First, let’s take a look at what collaborative leadership is.
What does collaborate leadership look like?
Leaders who understand the importance of collaboration in business have a belief system that everyone has the ability to develop, learn and contribute. This approach is known as growth mindset.
Collaborative leaders with a growth mindset have a very significant set of traits (see more on these below). Importantly, they are able to facilitate interactions, are highly effective communicators and always seek to inspire others. They flatten the traditional hierarchy seen in so many businesses and allow leaders to emerge. There is no place for micromanagement.
Justin Aldridge, Technical Director at Artemis Marketing, understands the importance of his team in the drive to be the most forward-thinking and innovative digital SEO agency around. “Listening to our people is what helps us to be thought-leaders in a highly competitive field.
“Our Rocket Projects draw on people across teams from the highly technical SEO team to our exceptionally creative in-house content writers. I’ve been blown away by the ideas that have come from the most unusual combinations of people in our business.”
In an article for Forbes on the crucial behaviours of collaborative leaders, Carol Kinsey Goman, international keynote speaker and leadership coach, says “A collaborative team isn’t a group of people working together. It’s a group of people working together who trust each other.”
Why collaborative leadership is so effective
Collaborating in business doesn’t really have any drawbacks (unless it is implemented clumsily as an afterthought, and not led by someone who truly understands the benefits, in which case it’s not really collaboration in the true sense).
Collaborative leadership is effective largely because of these three things:
1. Learning and problem-solving
Collaboration propels a business into a culture of on-going learning. This is vital for both company innovation and the progress and development of staff. When employees are encouraged to pool knowledge and skills to overcome problems and find solutions, everyone benefits. Projects move forward, employees learn new skills and learn to trust each other, and the business achieves goals and delivers to clients. This forward-looking approach enables businesses to be infinitely more agile. See more about why businesses need to be agile here.
2. Honesty, openness and trust
Collaboration, when facilitated correctly in business, creates a culture of honesty, openness and trust. Honesty is perhaps one of the most important principles of leadership.
Honest leaders are much more able to build loyalty and trust. There is great power in telling the truth. This doesn’t mean using truth to hurt people. Being radically candid is about being open and honest and not trying to protect people by underplaying problems.
The key difference in the approach of a highly successful collaborative leader is in their ability to listen, understand and discuss problems. For collaborative leaders, the focus is on solving a problem, not blaming a particular person.
Being a highly successful collaborative leader isn’t easy. It’s actually hard work. Sometimes uncomfortable truths have to be shared. But, honesty, metred with integrity, helps and encourages people. It doesn’t shoot people down.
3. Collaboration improves communication and boosts morale
When people are given the opportunity to contribute, grow connections and work together, morale gets a boost. Collaborative efforts rely on effective communication, but in reverse they also contribute to an improvement in working relationships and better communication.
Consider the opposite. In a business where collaboration is poor and teams operate in silos, it is impossible to build trust. Where there’s a lack of trust, you’ll find low morale. See how to make communication and collaboration in the workplace easier here.
Crucial behaviours of a collaborative leader
Collaborative leaders recognise the importance of interpersonal relationships and cross-team collaborations. Truly collaborative leaders are:
- Exceptional listeners
- Deeply knowledgeable
- Team focused
Good at asking the right questions
They don’t balk at uncertainty or bad ideas. They embrace ambiguity, they discuss it. They turn every idea over and over to find the best ones. Crucially, successful collaborative leaders coach teams to feel OK about failure and not feel stupid if an idea is binned. Every idea is part of a process, and that includes the ones that don’t amount to anything.
Last, but by no means least, collaborative leaders act with integrity at all times and genuinely care about ALL of the people in their business.
Collaboration is no longer a nice-to-have philosophy. To win in business, collaboration is an essential part of business strategy. This can only flourish in businesses with leaders who have what it takes to unleash the best from their people.